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Friday, April 18, 2014

USC Defeats UCLA, Vanderbilt Tops Georgia; Five Questions with Steve Johnson; USTA's College Information Session in Athens

The Pac-12 men's regular season conference title was on the line today at the University of Southern California, with UCLA visiting Marks Stadium, and the Trojans won it, beating the Bruins 4-2.

In their third meeting of the year--USC won in the semifinals of the Team Indoor, and UCLA taking the match in Westwood back in February--UCLA won the doubles point, taking advantage of the return to the lineup of Adrien Puget. He and Mackenzie McDonald clinched the doubles point for UCLA with an 8-4 win over Eric Johnson and Max de Vroome at line 3, but Puget did not play singles.

In singles, which featured 10 ranked players of the 12 on the court, one of the unranked ones, Johnson, got the Trojans' first point, beating Karue Sell 6-1, 7-5 at line 5.  Yannick Hanfmann made it 2-1 USC with his 6-4, 7-5 victory over No. 1 ranked Clay Thompson at line 1, but UCLA pulled even with Marcos Giron's 7-5, 6-3 win over Raymond Sarmiento. The remaining three matches all went to a third set, with UCLA's three freshmen on the court. Gage Brymer fell to de Vroome 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 at line 4 to make it 3-2, and McDonald lost to Roberto Quiroz 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 at line 3.  Joe DiGiulio and Michael Grant were at 4-4 in the third when Quiroz clinched.

The match was televised by the Pac-12 Network, and the final point can be viewed here.  Unlike most match points, it was a long and tense one, but the celebration after it was over was the usual dog pile.

The next likely encounter between the two teams will be next weekend at Ojai, in the finals of the Pac-12 men's team tournament.

An article and the complete box score are available at the Southern Cal website.

At the men's SEC conference championships in Nashville, host Vanderbilt upset top seed and regular season conference champions Georgia 4-2. Vanderbilt, the No. 8 seed, won the doubles point and collected wins from Ryan Smith at 6, Gonzales Austin at 2, and Rhys Johnson at 4.  Georgia's points came from Austin Smith at 1 and Nick Wood at 5.  The complete box score is here.   A post-match video interview with Vanderbilt coach Ian Duvenhage is available here.

The women's SEC conference championships are in Columbia, Missouri, and so far, favorites have prevailed, with No. 1 seed Alabama, No. 2 Vanderbilt and No. 3 Georgia advancing to the semifinals. Florida, seeded 4, and Texas A&M, seeded 5, are just starting their quarterfinal match.

ESPN's Greg Garber talked with Steve Johnson, who is currently home in Orange County, resting, practicing and no doubt attending today's match with UCLA, before heading to Europe, and the French Open, next month.

The USTA's 2012 College Information Session during NCAAs in Athens, Georgia

Two years ago at the NCAAs in Athens, Johnson's father, Steve Sr., was part of the panel at the USTA's College Information Seminar. The Southern section and the USTA will again be providing a similar session at this year's NCAAs in Athens, although it will include different panelists.  Scheduled for Sunday, May 18th at 10:00 a.m., the cost to attend is $10, and includes tickets to the men's quarterfinal matches. For more details, see this flyer.


Love college tennis said...

This is why you put up with all the stuff in juniors. To get here:


College Observer said...

UCLA are without 3 of their top singles players from last season in Novikov, Puget, and Mkrtchian. Almost a completely new team. Will be interesting how this team performs in Athens with half the team never playing in a NCAA tournament before.

Is Puget going to play singles? I heard Mkrtchian is only starting to hit again, so it looks like he won't be ready for NCAA tournament. If either of them return to full health and are back in the singles line up, UCLA should be the favorite. It's a shame, but injuries are part of the sport...

russ said...

College Observer: I like this year's team better than last's. Novikov was an inconsistent performer and I prefer Mackie and Gage over Mkrtchain even if he was healthy. Plug in Puget for Diguilio and that's a very formidable six. My guess is that Puget might get in some singles at the Pac 12 tourney. If he plays well, he is in.

College Observer said...

I agree that this is still a good team that has a great chance of winning it all this year. I would be hardpressed to call this years team a better team than last year however. Last years team was a net-interference call away from a national championship, as well as owning a superior regular season record. I believe UCLA defeated USC everytime last year, with Emile Gomez of USC in the line up.
Regarding Novikov's inconsistent performance, he might have not been there best player, but he strenghtened the line up, and was a trusty doubles player.
I am not denying Gage and Mackie's talent. Both are phenomenal young talents. However, in this case, I believe that experience trumps talent, and Puget and Mkrtchian have played many big matches for UCLA with great success, including last year's championship match. I think from a coaching standpoint, and this is just my opinion, a coach would rather have older and more experienced players than younger talented players. If these two were not injured, this would be the same team as last year, with an improved Clay Thompson and Marcos Giron. That's a scary thought.
If Puget comes back and plays to his past ability, then this will be indeed a fearsome team that no one will want to play.