No. 7 USC Men Storm Ojai For Pac-10 Championships

April 22, 2008

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THIS WEEK: Having rounded out the regular season with a 19-4 overall record and a 6-1 mark in Pac-10 play for a second-place finish, USC switches focus from dual match play to pure singles and doubles competition this week. The Trojans join the rest of the conference at the 2008 Pac-10 Championships, held April 24-27 in Ojai, Calif., as the conference's best vie for the 2008 Singles and Doubles titles.

ITA RANKING UPDATES: USC ranks No. 7 in the latest ITA rankings, released April 22. The latest individual rankings also were released on April 22, with four Trojans in the rankings -- #6 Robert Farah, #34 Kaes Van't Hof, #65 Jaak Poldma and #72 Gary Sacks. In doubles, Farah/Van't Hof remain ranked #2 in the nation.

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. The 2008 tournament draw is yet to be released.

THIS TIME LAST YEAR: USC had four singles participants (Dejan Cvetkovic, Robert Farah, Gary Sacks and Kaes Van't Hof) in on the tournament action, and two doubles teams (Cvetkovic/Sacks and Farah/Van't Hof) competing in the Pac-10 Championships. Cvetkovic and Van't Hof both reached the Pac-10 Singles Quarterfinals, while Farah/Van't Hof powered to the Pac-10 Doubles title game, where the pair fell to Stanford's Bruch/Muller 6-2, 6-4. On the Invitational side of things, Jason McNaughton worked his way to the Invitational Draw Championship, winning the title with a 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-4 win over Washington's Derek Drabble.

RECENT ACTION: USC had its 10-match winning streak snapped by #5 UCLA last week, as the Bruins claimed their fifth straight Pac-10 Championship with a 4-3 win over the Trojans at Marks Stadium. Solid singles win streaks built up by three Trojans remained intact in the match, as Kaes Van't Hof stretched his winning run out to 13 straight, Jaak Polma claimed his 11th consecutive win, and Jason McNaughton captured a sixth straight victory. In doubles, Farah/Van't Hof closed out their doubles domination with yet another win out of the No. 1 position, remaining undefeated in dual match doubles play, 16-0 in dual matches, 5-0 in Pac-10 matches and 29-3 overall on 16 straight wins. Farah/Van't Hof - ranked #2 in the nation - got the job done at No. 1 with an 8-4 win over #45 Meister/Srugo. At No. 2, USC's Magdas/Sacks warded off match point to push the match to a 7-7 draw, but the Bruins' Dehaine/Seguso pulled off a 9-7 win to lock up the doubles competition. That left all eyes on the No. 3 court, where UCLA's Drean/Look had rallied back from a 3-7 deficit against USC's Piotrowski/Poldma. The USC pair went up 8-7, only to have the Bruins hold serve next to make it 8-8 and bring up the tiebreaker, where UCLA moved ahead early and grabbed the win and the doubles point for the Bruins with a 9-8 (2) decision. The doubles point proved crucial, as the teams went on to split in singles with UCLA claiming wins at the No. 1, No. 4 and No. 5 positions, clinching on that No. 1 win as #23 Harel Srugo beat USC's #7 Robert Farah 6-4, 6-3.

TOP-10 TAKEDOWN: During USC's Spring Break, the Trojans knocked off two top-10 teams while then ranked No. 9 in the nation. USC opened the trip with a 4-3 upset of then-No. 4 Texas before heading to the site of the 2008 NCAA Championships and grabbing a 6-1 win over then-No. 8 Tulsa. USC and Texas already had tangled once during the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in February, when Texas claimed a 4-1 win over USC. This time, the Longhorns went ahead 2-0 before the Trojans answered with four straight singles wins to secure the victory. Two days later, USC dispatched another top-10 squad in beating Tulsa 6-1. The Trojans picked up the first two wins in doubles play to secure that opening point, then nabbed three straight singles matches to clinch victory. Magdas' two straight-set victories during USC's upset road wins earned the junior his first career Pac-10 Player of the Week award.

ONE-TWO PUNCH: In the battles that rage at the No. 1 and No. 2 singles positions during dual match play, USC's top-two of sophomore Robert Farah and Kaes Van't Hof have held their own. They've only taken a combined 10 losses in dual match action while accumulating a combined 33 wins from their top slots in the ladder to help lead the Trojans. Farah is 28-11 overall in singles and 14-6 in dual matches, although injury took him out of the lineup for one week. Van't Hof boasts a 25-8 overall mark and 19-4 record in dual match play and rides a 13-match win streak.

CLEANUP CREW: USC has had a powerful 4-5-6 lineup throughout much of the season, with six strong players rotating through those slots to combine for a 45-21 (.682) record at the three positions in dual match play. Gary Sacks has gone 6-6 at the No. 4 slot since Jaak Poldma went from his 5-0 run at the position to take over at the No. 3 slot in past matches. Jason McNaughton is 7-6 at the No. 5 position and is 6-1 from the No. 6 slot, while Abdullah Magdas holds a 5-5 mark at No. 5 and went 8-1 out of No. 6. Stepping in at No. 6 for three dual matches apiece have been Daniel Gliner and Andrew Piotrowski, who are each 2-1 in that slot.

HOW THE WEST WAS WON: The USC doubles duo of Robert Farah / Kaes Van't Hof remain ranked No. 2 in the nation after a powerful fall in which the Trojans captured the ITA West Regional doubles title. Riding a 16-match win streak, the pair holds a 29-3 overall record together this season after a clean 16-0 run through dual match doubles play this 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. Polma has been USC's most successful dual match player, going 18-1 in dual match singles and holding a 17-5 overall record as the freshman phenom carries an 11-match win streak into this week's Pac-10 Championships.

VAN'T HOF'S HAT TRICK: USC's only senior Kaes Van't Hof earned his third career Pac-10 Player of the Week award after picking up 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 25-8 overall in singles and holds a 29-3 overall record in doubles with Farah, also undefeated in dual match doubles play. Van't Hof recently hit the century mark with his 100th career singles win in a straight-set victory at the No. 2 slot against ASU on April 11. He now holds 102 career singles wins.

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. Farah now holds a 28-11 overall record on the season and 14-6 mark from 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.

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.

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).

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