Although USC men’s tennis has been a consistent force in the Pac-12 and NCAA Championships in the last three years, it has been 24 years since the Trojans clinched the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Team Indoors Championship.
The No. 1 Trojans (11-0) broke the dry spell by defeating No. 3 Ohio State (12-1) 4-3 on Monday in Charlottesville, Va., to win the Indoors for the first time since 1988.
With the score deadlocked at 3-3, No. 36 freshman Yannick Hanfmann sealed USC’s championship with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 65 Devin McCarthy in the Trojans’ closest match this season.
Ohio State jumped to a 1-0 lead after doubles, but No. 14 senior Daniel Nguyen and No. 47 sophomore Emilio Gomez erased the deficit with straight set singles wins.
The Buckeyes battled back, winning two of the next three in straight sets over No. 18 sophomore Ray Sarmiento and freshman Eric Johnson.
USC maintained a 3-2 lead after No. 11 senior Steve Johnson’s 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 16 senior Chase Buchanan, but Sarmiento’s subsequent loss to No. 12 Blaz Rola set the stage for Hanfmann’s comeback clincher.
“I have never been in that situation before. The pressure was huge, so I was relieved to get the break because I knew all I had to do was serve it out,” Hanfmann said. “I just told myself to stay calm and block out the crowd.”
The pair of Johnson and Hanfmann, nationally ranked No. 28 in doubles, had been undefeated in the season before losing 5-8 to Ohio State’s No. 1 pair of Buchanan and Rola.
Gomez and No. 86 freshman Roberto Quiroz followed with a narrow 8-9, 4-7 loss to Peter Kobelt and Connor Smith that gave the Buckeyes the 1-0 advantage, the only time USC has trailed this season.
“We just got punched in the face in doubles,” USC coach Peter Smith said. “I told them if you get punched in the face, you better get up and punch back. It was good to see the team compete as hard as they did.”
En route to the finals, USC had swept No. 20 Tennessee (4-6) and No. 10 Duke (9-1) before defeating No. 4 Georgia (8-1) in the semifinals.
The four wins in four days keep the Trojans undefeated this season and continue their 30 dual-match win streak spanning from last season.
USC relinquished only one point before the finals, which came from an early singles loss by Quiroz that tied the Georgia semifinals match at 1-1.
Wins by Hanfmann, Gomez and Johnson followed up the loss, giving USC its first ticket to the finals since 1991.
The Trojans will now return home to face No. 24 San Diego (5-2) and San Diego State (5-1) in a doubleheader on Friday, beginning with a clash against the Aztecs at 1 p.m. at Marks Tennis Stadium.