Next Up: Pac-10 Championships for No. 10 USC Men
April 24, 2007
THIS WEEK: No. 10 USC finished Pac-10 action last week with a 6-1 record to bring a 20-2 overall record into this week's Pac-10 Championships. USC's top four singles players and two doubles teams will vie for the Pac-10 titles at the action taking place in Ojai, Calif., from April 26-29. Keep an eye on Trojans Dejan Cvetkovic, Kaes Van't Hof, Robert Farah and Gary Sacks in the race for the Pac-10 singles crown, while the doubles teams of Cvetkovic/Sacks and Farah/Van't Hof are in line to compete for the Pac-10 doubles title. Draws and results will be posted at www.ojaitourney.org, as well as on the Pac-10 website, www.pac-10.org.
ITA RANKING UPDATES: USC has taken near 40 steps forward in the ITA team rankings during this season, jumping from a #43 start to the season to hold its highest ranking at #4 for the week of March 13 -- USC's highest rank since the close of the 2004 season. Despite only two losses this year to top-ranked Georgia and the owner of four-straight Pac-10 championships UCLA, the Trojans are now ranked #10 in the latest ITA team rankings (released April 24). The latest individual rankings of the season (as of April 24) has Jamil Al-Agba at #35, Dejan Cvetkovic at #51 and Kaes Van't Hof at #67 in singles. Dejan Cvetkovic / Gary Sacks rank #60.
PAC-10 PLANS: The Pac-10's eight men's teams head to Ojai, Calif., Thurs., April 26 through Sun., April 29, to decide the league's singles and doubles champions. The 32-player men's singles draw shall consist of four student-athletes from each school, and the 16-team doubles draw shall consist of two doubles teams from each school.
THIS TIME LAST YEAR: USC had four singles participants (Dejan Cvetkovic, Adam Loucks, Garrett Snyder and Kaes Van't Hof) in on the tournament action, and three doubles teams (Loucks/Snyder and Cvetkovic/Van't Hof) competing in the Pac-10 Championships. Van't Hof was USC's only player to reach the singles second round, and he and Cvetkovic reached the doubles quarterfinals.
HOME-COURT ADVANTAGE: USC's home schedule this season was a good one. The Trojans opened 2007 with eight straight home matches, and played four of their seven Pac-10-counting matches within the familiar spread of Marks Stadium. By the end of the home stretch -- capped April 7 -- USC raged undefeated with a 15-0 regular-season mark at home. On the road, USC holds a 5-2 dual match record.
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 kicked 2007 off to a much stronger start with a heap of tallies in the win columns across the board and an undefeated 11-0 record ¬-- the Trojans' best season start since 1988 -- until facing top-ranked Georgia on the road. Every player boasts a singles mark of at least .500. Junior Kaes Van't Hof and freshman Jason McNaughton lead the way with 28 wins apiece, and freshman Gary Sacks also recently hit the 20-win mark. Next in line in the winning effort are seniors Jamil Al-Agba (18) and Dejan Cvetkovic (16), as well as freshman Robert Farah (17). USC has dropped just 29 singles points during dual match play -- while winning a 102 after last week's regular-season finale -- and is 55-11 on the doubles scene in dual matches (19-2 in Pac-10).
DOUBLES TROUBLE: The Trojans doubles teams have been dominant this year. In USC's 22 dual matches, the Trojans have surrendered the doubles point only twice (at San Diego and at Georgia). And throughout USC's run to second place in the Pac-10, the Trojans never lost the doubles point during their conference dual matches.
BATTLE-TESTED: In September 2006, head coach Peter Smith took his USC players to Camp Pendleton, engaging in 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 translates into a long winning season for his USC squad.
ON THE KAES: Junior Kaes Van't Hof earned his first career Pac-10 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 on Feb. 10 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: Senior Dejan Cvetkovic became the second Trojan to win a Pac-10 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 to remain undefeated 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 a 7-6 (5), 6-3 win. He now has won the honor twice in his career at Troy.
TAKE TWO: Kaes Van't Hof didn't leave much doubt about capturing a second Pac-10 Player of the Week award. After a doubles sweep and two three-set singles victories that both clinched dual match wins for the Trojans in a 4-3 win over #17 Rice and a 6-1 win over #6 UCLA on March 9, Van't Hof was the weekly winner once again. The wins put Van't Hof on a 10-match winning streak in singles play, holding him undefeated in dual match action, and secured an 11-match winning streak for the Trojans as a team.
SUDDEN IMPACT: Three USC freshmen -- Robert Farah, Jason McNaughton and Gary Sacks -- have jumped right into their roles at Troy, garnering big wins for the Trojans in 2007. Farah and McNaughton have been in the lineup for 20 of USC's 21 dual matches. Farah holds a 16-5 dual match record (17-6 overall), and McNaughton is 19-2 in dual matches (28-7 overall). Sacks has appeared in 17 dual matches and held an 11-match winning tear before suffering just his second dual match singles loss, now standing with a 14-3 dual match mark and a 20-7 overall record. Combined, the three freshmen have garnered a 49-9 record (.845) for USC in dual matches.
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 (.648) 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 men's tennis coach ever to lead four different men's programs to national top-25 rankings and is one of only two coaches 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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