USC Men's Tennis Outlook

Jan. 17, 2008

Crazy things happen.

But given the track record of the USC men's tennis team, there was nothing crazy about the Trojans' turnaround season in 2007.

The 2006 season? With nine 4-3 losses and a missed trip to the postseason? Chalk that one up to a rough go.

But 2007? When the Trojans opened the year with an 11-match win streak and worked their way into the NCAA Quarterfinals?

Crazier things have happened...

Like a 32-match win streak in 1987.

Or four straight NCAA titles from 1966 to 1969.

Or a history dripping with 13 Singles National Champions, 15 Hall of Famers, 16 National Team Championships and 20 National Doubles Champions.

And you're crazy if you think the Trojans aren't lining up to extend USC's winning tradition in 2008.

Pac-10 Coach of the Year Peter Smith and his assistant Brett Masi earned regional honors for their roles in pushing USC back into the postseason with 2007's deep postseason run and a 22-3 overall finish. Four members of the Trojans' NCAA ladder are back for 2008, along with three players sidelined last season and the addition of three new faces to Troy.

'We really put USC where we should be, in the top 10 competing for a national title and we need to take the next step this year,' Smith said. 'We need to go past the quarterfinals and be a team competing for it all. I think we are that team.'

Headlined by ITA West Regional doubles champions Kaes Van't Hof and Robert Farah, the 2008 Trojans are deep, talented and young -- and ranked No. 6 to open the year.

It's a combination so crazy, it just might work.

Van't Hof -- who carries 77 career singles wins into the year -- is USC's only senior. In fact, he's the only upperclassman on the roster.

But he's not the only Trojan who has already proven himself a winner.

Farah, a sophomore who held down the fort at the No. 4 singles slot the majority of his freshman season, ¬also turned some heads in reaching the final of the Polo Ralph Lauren Men's All-American during the fall.

Also racking up the wins in their first seasons at Troy were Jason McNaughton and Gary Sacks. Now sophomores, the pair garnered 57 singles wins as freshmen. McNaughton had 34 of those, boasting the most wins of all the 2007 Trojans. Sacks and his powerful serve anchored the No. 6 singles slot for a great deal of last season. The pair stand to factor in largely to the coming 2008 campaign as well.

'I think our singles is going to be very, very strong,' Smith. 'We're really steady at each position. Last year was a building block to go higher this year.'

Seeing their first action as Trojans this season after sitting out in 2007 will be Jack Levis, Abdullah Magdas and Andrew Piotrowski. Levis redshirted last season, and Magdas and Piotrowski sat out due to NCAA requirements. All three have the experience and skill to inject even more talent into the 2007 Trojan gameplan.

'Those guys have some incredible resumes and incredible talent,' Smith said. 'Those four first-year guys are really impact people. Watching us battle and fight last year, they know what it's going to be like on the court, so there will be no surprises. They're going to walk out there and know what's up.'

Smith's freshman class consists of three newcomers to the collegiate game -- Daniel Gliner, Matt Manasse and Jaak Poldma.

'Daniel is really playing well,' Smith said. 'Jaak is big-time and has made his presence really felt. He has competed in four Grand Slams so he brings a wealth of experience.'

The new Trojans will get their first glimpse of dual match action this season on USC's home courts of Marks Stadium. Four nonconference matches in four days marks the start to the USC season before the Trojans take on their first Pac-10 opponents. Last season, only UCLA was able to upend the Trojans during conference competition. This year, the Pac-10 counting match with the Bruins will take place at USC, set for 3 p.m. on April 18.

In March, USC grabs some additional nonconference clashes when Baylor and Duke come to town, followed by a trip to Texas and then to Tulsa to scout out the home of the 2008 NCAA Championships.

'This is a team like the 2004 team, like last year's. We're ranked sixth this preseason and I'll be disappointed if we're sixth at the end of the year. I think we're capable of great things.'

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