No. 8 USC Men Host No. 13 UCLA Wednesday
March 3, 2009
THIS WEEK: USC is in hot pursuit of snapping a four-match slump against crosstown rival UCLA. The No. 8 Trojans are all set to host the No. 13 Bruins in the teams' first clash of the season, with UCLA coming to Troy for a 3 p.m. match on Wednesday (March 4) at Marks Stadium.
ITA RANKING UPDATES: The latest ITA national team rankings have USC ranked No 8 in the nation, as of March 3. Singles and doubles rankings also were released March 3, with Robert Farah standing tall as the nation's #1 singles player. He is joined in the rankings by #57 Abdullah Magdas, #86 Steve Johnson and #102 Jaak Poldma. In doubles, Farah/Johnson are ranked #4.
SCOUTING UCLA: UCLA is ranked No. 13 in the nation and is 7-4 overall after falling to now top-ranked Stanford 4-3 last week. USC is 80-96 all-time against the Bruins after taking close losses in the past four meetings. USC got a 6-1 win in March 2007, but fell 4-3 later that season. Last year, UCLA claimed 5-2 and 4-3 regular-season wins and won 4-2 in the 2008 NCAA Quarterfinals. UCLA has #53 Matt Brooklyn, #74 Haythem Abid and #93 Michael Look ranked in singles and #75 Brooklyn/Seguso ranked in doubles.
GRAB THE GAUNTLET: This week's match with UCLA marks another heated battle in the year-long Lexus Gauntlet competition between the rival schools. The USC tennis teams both are playing to pad the Trojans' lead, which currently stands at 40-25 entering this week's action. Five points are on the line in each of Wednesday's tennis matches, with the USc men hosting the Bruins at 3 p.m. and the Women of Troy playing at UCLA at 1:30 p.m. USC won last year's trophy in the annual all-sports competition. It takes 57.5 points to clinch the Lexus Gauntlet.
RECENT ACTION: USC took just its second loss of 2009 last week in a tight 4-3 loss to now-No. 1 Stanford. The Trojans dropped the doubles point for an early deficit against the then-No. 5 Cardinal, and the match ended up being decided in a third-set tiebreak at the No. 3 singles slot, where #47 Bradley Klahn edged Jaak Poldma to secure the Stanford win. The next day, the Trojans resumed their winning ways with a 7-0 sweep of California. Robert Farah, Steve Johnson and Jason McNaughton all emerged with a pair of singles wins over the weekend to help anchor the Trojans.
BACK FOR MORE: Once again, USC has just one senior on its roster - team captain Abdullah Magdas - along with two strong juniors in Robert Farah and Jason McNaughton and sophomore standout Jaak Poldma. Those three Trojans lined up just behind USC's 1-2 punch of Farah and Van't Hof last year, and once again Farah is tabbed as the headliner on USC's ladder. He has been cruising through singles play this season, now topping the charts at No. 1 with a 14-match singles winning streak.
JUST ADD FARAH: Robert Farah may well be an X-factor for doubles success. With Kaes Van't Hof last season, the Trojan pair captured USC's 21st NCAA Doubles Championship. After Van't Hof's graduation, Farah has teamed up with freshman Steve Johnson to form a new team in similar winning form as the nation's No. 4 ranked doubles pair.
THE NEW CLASS: Trojan newcomers Steve Johnson, Matt Kecki, Andrew Kells and Daniel Nguyen all boast a laundry list of junior-level accolades along with championships and strong rankings. Ben Lankenau also joins the crew as a freshman this year, rounding out a formidable group of newcomers who have proven themselves impact players already. Johnson and Kecki both picked up spring singles rankings at No. 58 and No. 54, respectively. USC's young doubles guns also got spring rankings nods, as Kells and Nguyen clock in at No. 46 behind second-ranked Farah/Johnson.