No. 9 USC Men Set Up For No. 17 Rice And No. 6 UCLA This Week

March 6, 2007

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THIS WEEK: USC lugs its nine-match win streak into this week's two home contests. The No. 9 Trojans first host No. 17 Rice at 1 p.m. on Wednesday (March 7) before turning to face defending Pac-10 champ and sixth-ranked UCLA on the Trojans' home courts at Marks Stadium at 1 p.m. on Friday (March 9). USC's nine-match winning streak marks the best season start since 1991, and the Trojans now have a chance to better that and match the 1988 start of 10 straight wins. The all-time best effort at USC came in 1987 when the Trojans won 32 straight before falling in the NCAA championship. For USC's Seventh Man Club members, there will be free In `n Out at Friday's UCLA match at Marks Stadium.

ITA RANKING UPDATES: USC has taken a good thirty-plus steps forward in the ITA team rankings, jumping from a #43 start to the season to now rank #9 in the latest poll, released March 6. The latest individual rankings of the season (as of March 6) has Dejan Cvetkovic at #77, Jamil Al-Agba at #45 and Jason McNaughton at #113 in singles. Al-Agba/Cvetkovic also are ranked #36 in doubles.

USC VS. RICE: USC is 3-0 all-time against the Owls, with the teams last facing in 1999. USC won that match 5-2 at home. #17 Rice is 8-3 overall this season and has #25 Ben Harknett, #97 Jason Mok and #116 Ralph Nupfer ranked in singles.

USC VS. UCLA: USC is 79-92 all-time against the Bruins after falling 5-2 and 4-3 to UCLA last season. #6 UCLA is 9-2 overall this season and has #3 Benjamin Kohlloeffel, #47 Chris Surapol, #48 Haythem Abid and #124 Mathieu Dehaine ranked in singles and #7 Gruendler/Kohlloeffel ranked in doubles. Kohlloeffel won the Pac-10 singles title last season.

GRAB THE GAUNTLET: With the Lexus Gauntlet in the final stretch of the 18-sport crosstown competition, this USC-UCLA men's match puts another 2.5 points up for grabs. In the first five years of the Gauntlet competition, the archrivals have alternated winning the trophy. USC won the inaugural trophy in 2002, 2004 and 2006. UCLA captured the rivalry's crown jewel in 2003 and 2005. UCLA currently owns a 47.5-17.5 advantage in pursuit of the 150-pound, pewter-gilded trophy presented by the Southern California Lexus Dealers.

HOME-COURT ADVANTAGE: USC's home schedule this season is a good one. The Trojans opened 2007 with eight straight home matches, and play four of their seven Pac-10-counting matches within the familiar spread of Marks Stadium. All told, USC has 15 of its 22 dual matches at home. USC won all eight home matches to start the year, and is now 9-0, marking the Trojans' best season start since 1991.

WINS OF CHANGE: After a frustrating 2006 season in which the Trojans failed to reach the NCAA Championships and suffered through nine tight 4-3 losses, USC has kicked 2007 off to a much stronger start with a heap of tallies in the win columns across the board. Every player boasts a singles record of at least .500. Freshman Jason McNaughton and junior Kaes Van't Hof lead the way with 17 wins apiece already, and seniors Dejan Cvetkovic and Jamil Al-Agba also have broken the 10-win mark as well in singles action with 12 and 11, respectively. USC has dropped just seven singles points during dual match play, and is 23-4 on the doubles scene in dual matches as well.

BATTLE-TESTED: In September 2006, head coach Peter Smith took his USC players to Camp Pendleton, to take on two days of basic training drills alongside the U.S. Marines. In addition to a commitment to conditioning, the Trojans took away a sense of teamwork and focus that Smith hopes to have translate into a winning season for his USC squad.

ON THE KAES: Junior Kaes Van't Hof earned his first career Pac-10 Men's Tennis Player of the Week award after clinching USC's 5-2 win over #44 Fresno State and then winning again at the No. 2 position against #18 Boise State to help improve USC's winning streak to seven straight. With a pair of doubles wins as well from the No. 2 slot, Van't Hof won his sixth straight match with teammate Robert Farah with a comeback victory, fighting back from 4-7 to win 9-7 and clinch the doubles point against #18 Boise State.

DEJAN GETS IT DONE: Dejan Cvetkovic became the second Trojan to win a Pac-10 Men's Tennis Player of the Week award this season after tacking up two more singles wins and remaining undefeated in doubles play with Jamil Al-Agba to help lift USC to its best season start since 1991.Cvetkovic secured the doubles point against Texas A&M with a tight 9-7 win at the No. 1 slot with Al-Agba before winning his singles match to keep USC moving toward victory. Against San Diego, Cvetkovic had the clinching singles win, pulling out the tiebreaker in the first set before cruising to a 7-6 (5), 6-3 win, improving to 12-4 in singles play (6-2 in dual matches) and a perfect 7-0 with Al-Agba in doubles. He now has won the honor twice in his career at Troy.

ON SMITH'S WATCH: Peter Smith, the 2004 Pac-10 Coach of the Year, enters his fifth season as head coach of the Trojan men's tennis program. He has compiled a 327-178 (.948) career coaching record and is 57-43 (.570) at USC. After five years at Pepperdine, Smith came to Troy and extended his streak of sending teams to the NCAA Tournament to 12 consecutive seasons, as the Trojans reached the NCAA Second Round in his first season, the semifinals in 2004, and the second round again in 2005. Smith is the only head coach ever to lead four different programs to national top-25 rankings and the only coach to guide three different schools to the NCAA quarterfinals and top-5 national rankings (USC, Pepperdine and Fresno State). In 2004, Smith enjoyed one of the greatest seasons of his career, leading USC to the NCAA Semifinals and a No. 4 final ITA ranking. That year, USC went 23-4 overall and 6-1 in the Pac-10 to claim a share of the conference title -- USC's 14th title overall (first since 1994) and the seventh conference championship of his career.

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