2007 USC Men's Tennis Outlook
Feb. 1, 2007
Anyone who says tennis isn't a team sport hasn't met the Trojans. After a disappointing 2006 season, the USC men's tennis team has regrouped, refocused and put itself through boot camp.
In September 2006, USC head coach Peter Smith took his squad to Camp Pendleton, where the Trojans were strenuously reminded of the power of teamwork by the ones who live and breathe by that code: the U.S. Marine Corps.
Two days of basic training drills alongside Marines effectively united and helped condition the Trojans, lending perspective -- and perspiration -- to the USC men as they squared themselves for the 2006-07 tennis season.
'We were fortunate to go down to Camp Pendleton and work on building our team,' Smith said. 'We participated in parts of basic training and did the Crucible Course. The Marines are all about team building, about building a team around six people, so we split ourselves into two six-person teams.'
It's not about how great of shape we're in, it's about a certain mind-set. That starts with a rigorous physical regimen, but it's also about being tough and overcoming obstacles. It all started with our weekend at Camp Pendleton.'
Months later, the Trojans are now working to funnel their work ethic into a winning season on the tennis courts. With the foundation that the Camp Pendleton experience gave them, coupled with a loaded roster balanced with experience and rising young talent, improvements should come naturally for the 2007 Trojans.
Only one player (Jeff Kazarian) is gone from USC's dual match ladder. Jamil Al-Agba, Dejan Cvetkovic and Kaes Van't Hof, who tag-teamed the top two singles slots throughout the year, all return, as do singles regulars Adam Loucks, Garrett Snyder and Chong Wang. Al-Agba, Cvetkovic, Snyder and Whit Livingston comprise the senior corps, with Van't Hof and Loucks standing out from the junior ranks.
Last season, USC's doubles teams were consistently successful, although staying power at singles proved hit-or-miss as the Trojans wound up with nine 4-3 losses -- seven in Pac-10 play and two to top-10 teams -- to finish 2006 short of the NCAA Championships with an 8-14 overall record(1-6 Pac-10).
If USC's 2007 upperclassmen and the three active Trojan newcomers have anything to say about it, that won't happen again.'I think we have a lot to prove this year. We have worked tirelessly to get the talent that we know we have out of the guys,' Smith said. 'All we lacked last year was finishing power. We proved we could play with anybody, but we couldn't finish. I think with this addition of new people and the reconditioning of everyone, I think we're ready to go.'
USC has six new players on its roster, three of whom will be active and three who will redshirt their first season at Troy. Tagged for duty in the Trojan lineup are freshmen Robert Farah, Jason McNaughton and Gary Sacks -- all proven winners coming into their USC careers.
'We added three very competitive, very good players,' Smith said.'And we really return the core of our team: five out of our top six singles players and five of our top six doubles teams. Doubles was really strong last year -- we only lost five doubles points -- but we needed some more pop in singles and I think we'll get that. We have some great upperclass leadership in Dejan, Jamil, Kaes and Garrett. Those guys know what it takes, and those guys are not going to let us do anything but compete at our highest.'
With that barrage of talent prepped for competition, USC is steeled for whatever the 2007 season throws its way. That includes the tough Pac-10 teams -- including defending champ UCLA -- and extends to a grueling nonconference schedule. The Trojans will pay a visit to top-ranked NCAA Tournament host Georgia, but also have the good fortune to be hosting a great deal of matches this year.
'We look to really compete with UCLA and really challenge for that Pac-10- title,' Smith said of the dual match road ahead. 'We have a packed schedule, though we're very fortunate to have a very good home schedule.
'It's an enjoyable team,' Smith added. 'They have overcome some obstacles and everything is clear and defined as to what we need to do.'
TOMORROW | 5:00pm PTLive
TOMORROW | 7:00pm PTLive