No. 10 USC Squares Off With No. 6 UCLA and No. 11 Baylor

March 4, 2008

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THIS WEEK: After a week off of dual match action, USC picks back up this week with a clash against crosstown rival UCLA and then a match with Baylor. The stretch represents a battle of top-tier teams, as No. 10 USC first pays a visit to the No. 6 Bruins in Westwood at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday (March 6) and then comes home to host No. 11 Baylor at 2 p.m. on Sunday (March 9).

ITA RANKING UPDATES: USC has moved to rank No. 10 in the latest ITA rankings, released March 4. Preseason individual rankings (released March 4) have Robert Farah ranked at #11, Gary Sacks at #47, Kaes Van't Hof at #58, Jaak Poldma at #90 and Jason McNaughton at #95. Farah/Van't Hof stand high in the ITA doubles rankings, coming in at #3.

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 scramble toward the perpetual trophy presented by the Southern California Lexus Dealers Association. USC currently leads the competition 50-20 - just short of clinching the trophy - but with several sports still yet to engage in and/or finish their Lexus Gauntlet competition -- and the potential for postseason face-offs -- the final tally remains up in the air. In the first four years of the Gauntlet competition, the archrivals have alternated winning the trophy. USC won the inaugural trophy in 2002 and again in 2004 and 2006. UCLA captured the rivalry's crown jewel in 2003, 2005 and 2007.

USC VS. UCLA: UCLA ranks #6 in the nation and is 8-1 after last beating UC Santa Barbara 6-1. The Bruins' one loss this season was a 4-3 loss to Virginia at the ITA Team Indoors. USC is 80-93 all-time against UCLA, having split matches last season with a 6-1 home win and a 4-3 road loss to the Bruins during Pac-10 play. The Bruins have three ranked singles players -- #28 Mathieu Dehaine, #45 Harel Srugo and #51 Holden Seguso.

USC VS. BAYLOR: Baylor ranks #11 in the nation and is 10-4 overall after last beating VCU 5-1. USC is 2-4 all-time against Baylor, with the teams last facing in 2006 when Baylor posted a 5-1 win over the Trojans. The Bears have four ranked singles players -- #10 Denes Lukacs, #15 Lars Poerschke, #75 Dominik Mueller and #102 David Galic -- and #49 Mueller/Bucko, #50 Poerschke/Bucko and #54 Galic/Lukacs are ranked in doubles.

RECENT ACTION: USC's last dual match competition came Feb. 22 in a nonconference match against Arizona, where the Trojans posted their first clean sweep of the season. It didn't come easily, as USC claimed two doubles matches with tight tiebreaker wins. And after three straight-set wins in singles -- clinched by a 7-6, 6-3 win from Abdullah Magdas at No. 6 -- the final three matches stretched to three sets. Kaes Van't Hof pulled off the day's upset with a 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 win over #79 Jay Goldman at the No. 2 position. The next day's match against ASU was stopped by rain, and the teams were unable to complete things the following day.

VAN'T HOF'S HAT TRICK: Senior Kaes Van't Hof earned his third career Pac-10 Player of the Week award after picking up two more singles and doubles wins on Feb. 8 and 9. Van't Hof extended his win streaks in both categories to five straight during USC dual match victories. Playing at the No. 2 singles position, Van't Hof first beat Clemson's Kevin Fleck 6-3, 7-6 (4). The next day, he beat Boise State's #19 Clancy Shields 6-3, 6-2. Also playing at No. 1 doubles, Van't Hof and Robert Farah posted an identical win streak, winning in both dual matches for five straight in doubles. Van't Hof is now 13-8 overall in singles and holds a 19-3 overall record in doubles with Farah, also undefeated in dual match doubles play.

CLEANUP CREW: USC has had a powerful 4-5-6 lineup this season, with the three most regular players in those singles slots combining for an 24-4 record in dual match play. Freshman Jaak Poldma has a smooth 9-0 mark in dual matches -- though he has moved up to No. 3 in recent matches -- sophomore Jason McNaughton is 8-2, and junior Abdullah Magdas is 7-2.

HOW THE WEST WAS WON: The USC doubles duo of Robert Farah / Kaes Van't Hof are ranked No. 2 in the nation after a powerful fall in which the Trojans captured the ITA West Regional doubles title. The pair holds a 19-3 overall record together this season after a clean 6-0 run through dual match doubles play so far this season.

FARAH'S FANTASTIC FALL: Sophomore Robert Farah put together a powerful fall season, recording a nine-match win streak that carried him into the final of the ITA All-American. He also reached the final of the Sherwood Collegiate Cup in January and now holds a 21-8 overall record on the season while holding down the No. 1 singles position for the Trojans.

TOP COACHES: 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. Smith was named the 2007 ITA West Region Coach of the Year, and Masi was the 2007 ITA West Region Assistant Coach of the Year.

ON SMITH'S WATCH: Peter Smith, the 2007 Pac-10 and ITA West Regional Coach of the Year, enters his sixth season as head coach of the Trojan men's tennis program. He has compiled a 350-181 (.659) career coaching record and is 80-46 (.635) at USC. After five years at Pepperdine, Smith became only the third head coach in Trojan tennis history 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. In 2006, USC missed the postseason with an 8-14 record, but in 2007, USC reemerged on the NCAA scene, racking up its best program start since 1987 with an 11-0 record on the way to a second-place finish in the Pac-10 (6-1) and a trip to the NCAA Quarterfinals to finish 23-3 overall. It was the biggest turnaround in USC history, and the mark stands out as the fewest losses sustained since USC went 22-3 in 1994, when the Trojans won their 15th NCAA title. 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).

BACK FOR MORE: Four members of the Trojans' NCAA ladder are back for 2008. Headlined by ITA West Regional doubles champions Kaes Van't Hof and Robert Farah, the 2008 Trojans are deep, talented and young. Van't Hof -- who carried 77 career singles wins into the year -- is USC's only senior. 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.

NEW TALENT: 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, especially with the addition of three new freshmen to the lineup -- Daniel Gliner, Matt Manasse and Jaak Poldma.

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