USC escapes Baylor after losing doubles point, moves on to quarterfinals
URBANA, Ill. -- Experience and calm won the day for No. 4-seed Southern California in its NCAA Round of 16 matchup with Baylor. The Bears snagged the doubles point to heap pressure on the Trojans in singles, but the four-time defending national champions proved up to the early test. USC rolled up four consecutive singles wins to lock in a 4-1 victory that pushed the Trojans into the quarterfinals for the seventh consecutive year.
Singles wins from Emilio Gomez, Eric Johnson and Roberto Quiroz were wrapped up by Yannick Hanfmann in a three-set comeback to secure the victory.
"I think we can say the tournament has started for sure," USC head coach Peter Smith said. "It was great for us to match Baylor's intensity. We played from behind for three hours, but we really came through in the end. It was a great battle."
A tight doubles point broke in Baylor's favor as the Bears made a late surge to capture the first point of the day. USC registered the first victory of the match when Gomez and Quiroz pulled out a late break on court No. 2 for an 8-5 decision in the Trojans' favor. On the other two courts, the Trojans were up against a wall, facing match points after falling down a break on both courts. One more break by the Bears tallied an 8-5 win against USC's Max de Vroome and Johnson at the No. 3 spot, putting the pressure on court No. 1. There, USC's No. 37 team of Hanfmann and Ray Sarmiento were trying to fend off Baylor, which was set up on the service line and holding match point. The Bears got that one at 8-6 to wrap up doubles action and put a point in their column on the way into singles play.
USC claimed the first-set advantage on court Nos. 1, 4 and 5 while Baylor snagged opening sets at the Nos. 2, 3 and 6 spots. A big spark came from No. 7 Gomez, who had been down a break in his first set against Baylor's No. 24 Patrick Pradella. Trailing 4-2, Gomez battled back and went up 5-4 in the first. He was trailing Pradella 40-15 as another tie-up looked eminent, but Gomez gathered up steam and stole the set 6-4. He stayed hot through the second set, creating some key room on Pradella and charging to a 6-4, 6-2 win.
USC's No. 36 Quiroz had cruised in his first set against No. 109 Tony Lupieri but found himself down 5-2. Quiroz found a spark of his own to tie it up at five, only to see Lupieri hold next to make it 5-6. Quiroz forced the tiebreaker, holding serve to lock it up again and then taking full control in the tiebreaker to snag another point for the Trojans on a 6-2, 7-6 (2) win that got USC on top 2-1.
No. 16 Sarmiento answered back against No. 55 Julian Lenz to bring up a third set on court No. 2 and No. 45 Hanfmann had done the same on court No. 4. At the No. 5 spot, No. 90 Johnson won the first but was behind 5-4 in the second. On court No. 6, Jonny Wang was hanging tough in his second set with Marko Krikovic.
Johnson managed the break and hold to pull even on Diego Galeano, then stole away another break for a 6-4 lead that put him on the service line to hold for the win, making it 3-1 Trojans with his 6-3, 7-5 victory. Sarmiento, Hanfmann and Wang were still plugging away, with Hanfmann looking at a 5-4 deficit late in his third set against No. 84 Mate Zsiga. Hanfmann stepped to the service line and held to make it 5-5, then pulled out a break to serve for it. He hauled in the clinching victory on a 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 comeback that punched the Trojans' ticket to the NCAA quarterfinals.