April 28, 2012
Ojai, Calif. - Looking to beat its cross-town rival for the second time in a little over a week, the fifth-ranked UCLA men's tennis team fell just short in the Pac-12 Tournament final on Saturday, suffering a 4-2 loss to top-ranked USC at Ojai's Libbey Park. With the win, the Trojans improve to 27-1 overall and earn the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, while the Pac-12 regular-season champion Bruins move to 22-3. Both teams now turn their attention to the NCAA Tournament, as the 64-team draw will be announced on Tuesday, May 1.
"It's certainly disappointing we didn't win it," said UCLA head coach Billy Martin. "I still felt we played pretty good and we were right there with them. To lose to a team like USC is no disgrace. We just have to help ourselves and figure out how to win the doubles point against these guys. I think we've proved that we can hang with them in singles. But to win four singles matches against them like we did last time is extremely tough. So doubles will be our focus moving forward."
UCLA, which had lost the doubles point in both prior meetings with USC this season, was again unable to claim the doubles point on Saturday, suffering losses at court Nos. 1 and 3. Although the Bruins were in control at court No. 2, where Nick Meister and Dennis Novikov were up a break, 6-3 over Daniel Nguyen and Raymond Sarmiento, that match was ultimately suspended when USC's Yannick Hanfmann and Emilio Gomez downed Marcos Giron and Warren Hardie, 8-6 at court No. 3. That was the clinching win, as the Trojans had previously notched an 8-5 victory at court No. 1.
With the doubles point in hand, the Trojans came out and took a pair of straight-set singles wins to take a 3-0 lead in the contest. USC's first point came when Nguyen downed Novikov, 6-3, 6-1 at court No. 3. Gomez picked up the Trojans' second point less than a minute later at court No. 4, where he beat Giron, 6-4, 6-3.
On the brink of elimination, UCLA fought back to take the next two matches to cut the lead to 3-2. Sophomore Clay Thompson downed Sarmiento, 7-6(4), 6-4, at court No. 2, while Dennis Mkrtchian was a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 winner over Roberto Quiroz at court No. 6.
That left just two matches on court and UCLA needed to win both to pull out the win. Although sophomore Adrien Puget was within two points of downing Hanfmann at court No. 5, his match was ultimately suspended when Steve Johnson edged Meister, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 at court No. 1, giving USC the 4-2 win. Puget was leading Hanfmann, 6-3, 3-6, 6-5.
UCLA will likely host NCAA Regional action the weekend of May 11-13.
#1 USC 4, #5 UCLA 2
Pac-12 Tournament Championship
Apr 28, 2012 at Ojai, CA (Libbey Park)
|1. #3 Johnson/Quiroz (USC) def. #44 Alex Brigham/Puget (UCLA) 8-5|
|2. Meister/Novikov (UCLA) vs. #30 Nguyen/Sarmiento (USC) 6-3, unfinished|
|3. Gomez/Hanfmann (USC) def. Warren Hardie/Giron (UCLA) 8-6|
|1. #2 Steve Johnson (USC) def. #17 Nick Meister (UCLA) 3-6, 6-1, 6-2|
|2. #73 Clay Thompson (UCLA) def. #25 Ray Sarmiento (USC) 7-6(4), 6-4|
|3. #18 Daniel Nguyen (USC) def. Dennis Novikov (UCLA) 6-3, 6-1|
|4. #60 Emilio Gomez (USC) def. #71 Marcos Giron (UCLA) 6-4, 6-3|
|5. #46 Adrien Puget (UCLA) vs. #53 Yannick Hanfmann (USC) 6-3, 3-6, 6-5, unfinished|
|6. Dennis Mkrtchian (UCLA) def. Roberto Quiroz (USC) 3-6, 6-4, 6-3|
|USC 27-1; National ranking #1|
|UCLA 22-3; National ranking #5|
|Order of finish: Doubles (1,3); Singles (3,4,2,6,1)|