USC spoils Masi’s homecoming again

The USC men’s tennis team welcomed a familiar face in former coach Brett Masi on Friday, and it wasted no time in showing how far they’ve come without him.

The No. 2 Trojans (6-0) notched their sixth consecutive win to begin the season with a 6-1 victory over No. 47 San Diego.

Youth served · Freshman Ray Sarmiento helped keep the Trojans’ undefeated streak alive by winning his sixth-straight singles match. - Mannat Saini | Daily Trojan

Doubles play didn’t start off well, though, as freshman Ray Sarmiento and junior Steve Johnson, playing at the No. 1 spot for USC, was the only doubles pair to fall, losing to the Toreros’ Dean Jackson and Patrick Pohlmann, 8-3.

But sophomore J.T. Sundling and senior Jaak Poldma were dominant in doubles at the No. 3 spot, grabbing a win against San Diego’s Clarke Spinosa and Thibaut Visy, 8-3 to even the score.

“We started really quickly, which was nice,” Sundling said. “We were up 5-0, which really helped us, and it’s always good to start strong.”

Although Sundling and Poldma easily won their doubles match, junior Daniel Nguyen and freshman Emilio Gomez eked out an 8-6 victory over San Diego’s Nikola Bubnic and Nils Schive.

With a 7-6 advantage, Nguyen stepped up to the service line for the Trojans.

Nguyen and Gomez fought off a push by the Toreros pair to deuce, as Nguyen held serve and grabbed the doubles point for USC with one last ace to give USC a 1-0 advantage.

“We got up early in the break, but played really badly down the stretch,” Sarmiento said. “We need to work on better first serves and closing out the point.”

The Trojans had a much tougher time in the doubles department, but their singles matches went smoother.

“Steve [Johnson] and Jaak [Poldma] played so well and were in control,” said USC coach Peter Smith. “They really led the team, which was great to see, especially at the No. 1 and No. 2 spots.”

Johnson defeated San Diego’s Jackson 6-3, 6-2 and Poldma beat Bubnic 7-5, 6-1.

In an abbreviated third set, Nguyen, who lost the first set 2-6, came back with a 6-3 second set victory and pulled out a thrilling tiebreak deficit victory.

Sarmiento came away with his sixth consecutive singles victory with a 6-2, 7-5 decision over San Diego’s Clarke Spinosa.

Though the win might have seemed easy just looking at the stats, San Diego’s play told a whole different story. USC was challenged early in doubles play, before rattling off three-straight singles victories to close out the win at home.

Sarmiento said he was not surprised by the level of competition San Diego brought, and that USC welcomes the challenge.

“We have to expect that every match is going to be a battle,” he said. “We have to work hard and always have to prove ourselves.”

USC welcomes Pepperdine to Marks Stadium on Friday at 1:30 p.m. for its next match.