Men's Tennis Looks To Newcomers For Depth In 2001

Jan. 15, 2001

Someone once said 'you can not fear the unknown.' It's a statement that USC men's tennis head coach Dick Leach has taken to heart this season.

In his 22nd season at the helm of USC Trojan tennis, Leach has found himself entrusting the 2001 season to three veterans and two 'very new' newcomers to guide the squad at the top of the lineup.

Though his three experienced veterans - juniors Andrew Park (San Marino, Calif.), Ryan Moore (Fullerton, Calif.) and Nick Rainey (Mercer Island, Wash.) - have shined in their first two seasons at USC and will most likely play at the top of the lineup, the Trojans suffered a loss at the start of the fall season. Sophomore Daniel Langre, who was also expected to help lead USC at one of the top four positions, tore his ACL and is expected to be out for the remainder of the season.

'With Daniel in the lineup, we thought a top-10 finish was certain for this team,' said Leach, who in his 21 years at USC has won three national titles. 'Now it depends on how our new players will respond to the challenge of college tennis.'

With the return of Parker Collins (Newport Beach, Calif.), who played at No. 6 in 2000 and recorded a 16-26 overall record, USC will rely on the performance of freshmen Damien Spiezo (Melbourne, Australia) and Ruben Torres (Cali, Colombia) who have joined the squad this spring. Both top-rated ITF junior players, Spiezo and Torres will also play doubles together at No. 2 or 3.

'We're excited to have these two young men join the team,' said Leach, who boasts a 495-119 (.806) overall record at USC. 'They are both very talented players who can probably play with anyone on the team. Hopefully, they'll adjust quickly to the college level and provide us with the depth we need in this lineup.

'I know I have very good players on this team, but I just don't know what to expect this season. Though, looking to the future, I think we might be just one year away from great success. One year away from aiming for a national championship again.

'What I know we do have is great individual talent this season. I'm confident Moore and Rainey will compete for the NCAA doubles title and Park will be a top contender for the NCAA singles championship.'

Moore and Rainey are examples of what USC men's tennis has represented throughout its storied 76-year history. They are what has separated the Trojans from the rest of Division I tennis in the last century. They are the next duo that could be added to the list of the 21 national doubles champions (the most from any Division I program) at USC.

Named 2000 ITA All-Americans, the juniors narrowly missed the national title last season. With USC's 30th all-time appearance in the NCAA Doubles Finals match, Moore and Rainey suffered a 6-4, 6-2 defeat at the hands of Cary Franklin and Graydon Oliver of Illinois. The tandem earned a final No. 3 ITA ranking behind two graduating doubles teams and posted a final 33-11 record.

Moore and Rainey picked up where they left of this fall by repeating as champions of the 2000 SoCal Intercollegiate Doubles Championship with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Pepperdine's Chase Exon and Stefan Suter on Nov. 1.

'Right now Ryan and Nick are playing some of the best tennis I've seen,' said Leach. 'If both of them stay healthy, it's hard to imagine anyone will be able to beat them this year.'

The pride of Trojan tennis is also safe in the hands of Park, who continues to add to his list of titles after finishing last season with a 29-13 overall record and No. 86 final ranking.

Despite being seeded seventh upon entering the tournament, Park began 2001 by winning the SoCal Intercollegiate Championship with a 6-3, 6-2 upset victory over UCLA's Travis Rettenmaier on Oct. 30. Then, on Nov. 12, Park made his second title addition. This time entering as the top seed, he defeated No. 2 seed Jean-Noel Grinda of UCLA by scores of 6-2, 6-4, to defend his singles title at the ITA Region VIII South Championships in Malibu (Park won the 1999 title by defeating former USC teammate Patrick Gottesleben). He never dropped a set in the tournament and, with the win, secured an automatic berth to the Rolex National Indoor Championships scheduled for February in Dallas, Tex.

'These guys are my three fab freshmen of 1999 - Moore, Rainey and Park - and once again they've stepped up their performances this fall as juniors,' said Leach. 'Park will be our leader, playing at No. 1 singles this season, while Moore and Rainey will play No. 1 doubles.'

Completing the lineup for the Trojans are junior Scott Merryman (Coto de Caza, Calif.), who played five matches last season, sophomore Christian Jensen (Newport Beach, Calif.), who played four matches, and freshman Garrett Wong from Westlake High in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

As is usually the case, the Pac-10 will be one of the nation's toughest conferences to compete in upon entering the dual-match season. Stanford begins the year ranked No. 1, UCLA No. 3 and USC moved up four spots to No. 13.

Last season the Trojans finished third in the Pac-10 behind the Cardinal and Bruins with a 5-2 conference record. USC posted an 18-9 overall mark and advanced to the NCAA Round of 16 after upsetting Fresno State in the second round.

Similar results would be welcomed at most programs, but the Trojans are looking to make a bigger impact in the next two years. With a season of much-needed experience and the program's new additions, USC men's tennis could soon be driven back into title contention.

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