No. 7 USC Men Take Aim At Pac-10 Crown

April 15, 2009

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THIS WEEK: USC rides a seven-match winning streak into a bigtime showdown with crosstown rival UCLA this week to round out the regular season. The Pac-10 Championship is on the line in the match, which takes the No. 7 Trojans (19-4, 5-0 Pac-10) over to the No. 9 Bruins' courts for a 3 p.m. face-off on Friday (April 17) at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. The match also offers an opportunity for USC to snap five straight seasons of UCLA (16-4, 5-0) claiming the conference crown while at the same time giving the Trojans' their first title since 2004.

CAMPBELL/ITA RANKING UPDATES: The latest Campbell/ITA national team rankings have USC ranked No. 7 in the nation, as of April 14. Singles and doubles rankings also were released April 14, with Robert Farah ranked as the nation's #4 singles player. He is joined in the rankings by #63 Steve Johnson, #81 Jaak Poldma and #84 Abdullah Magdas. In doubles, Farah/Johnson are ranked #2.

SCOUTING UCLA: UCLA is ranked No. 9 in the nation and is 16-4 overall and 5-0 in Pac-10 play after beating Arizona and Pepperdine both 5-2 in the last week. USC is 80-97 all-time against UCLA, having lost the past five meetings with the Bruins including a 4-3 loss earlier this year at Marks Stadium. UCLA has #49 Haythem Abid, #95 Matt Brooklyn, #105 Nick Meister and #116 Michael Look nationally ranked in singles and #24 Abid/Meister and #68 Brooklyn/Srugo ranked in doubles.

GRAB THE GAUNTLET: This Friday's match marks a chance for USC to add 2.5 points to the Trojan tally in the 2008-09 USC-UCLA Lexus Gauntlet rivalry. Each year, all 18 sports are involved in deciding which school wins the perpetual trophy presented by the Southern California Lexus Dealers Association. This year, USC is aiming to break the cycle and winning the trophy for the second straight season, as the Trojans hold a 42.5-37.5 lead on the Bruins. The schools have traded the trophy since the competition first began in 2002. USC won the inaugural trophy in 2002 and again in 2004, 2006 and 2008.

RECENT ACTION: USC extended its win streak out to seven straight with a pair of wins in the past week. The Trojans held tight to their undefeated Pac-10 mark with a 7-0 sweep of Arizona. USC rolled on in a nonconference match with Hawai'i, taking the doubles point and three quick singles wins before the Warriors could get on the board and make it a 4-3 USC win -- the Trojans' 19th of the season.

TOP-TEN TAKEDOWNS: The Trojans have served up big wins against four top-10 teams so far this season. The first top-10 casualty was then-#9 Mississippi during the ITA National Indoor Championships. Two days later, USC took down #2 Texas 4-1. Since then, the Trojans have pinned up a 4-3 road win at #7 Baylor and a 4-3 upset of #4 host Stanford with top gun Robert Farah out of the lineup due to injury. The next top-10 showdown for the #7 Trojans is this week's regular-season finale match against current #9 UCLA for the rights to the Pac-10 title.

BACK ON THE ATTACK: USC junior Robert Farah returned to singles action after being sidelined for six straight matches, competing in his first Pac-10 singles match of the season last weekend and earning his second career honor as Pac-10 Player of the Week. Although it had been almost a month since his last singles match for USC, Farah managed to follow up a doubles win with a third-set tiebreak win in singles. Farah had teamed back up with Steve Johnson for doubles to start the day in USC's match against No. 18 Arizona, and the Trojan pair clinched the doubles point for USC with an 8-6 win over Arizona's ranked pair at the No. 1 position. In singles, #3 Farah got back to form with his 22nd singles win of the year, outlasting Arizona's #68 Jay Goldman in the third set's 10-point tiebreak. Farah is now 22-5 overall and 11-3 in dual match singles play. In doubles with Johnson, Farah is 27-8 overall and 14-5 in dual matches.

SENIOR SHINES: USC's lone senior Abdullah Magdas won in out in both doubles and singles for the Trojans when they opened Pac-10 play with two road wins. For his efforts, Magdas earned his second career selection as the Pac-10 Men's Tennis Player of the Week and the first by a Trojan this season. Magdas' biggest win of the weekend was a three-set battle at the No. 3 singles slot against Ryan Thacher -- a victory that clinched a 4-3 upset win for #8 USC over host #4 Stanford. It wrapped up a winning weekend in which Magdas combined forces with Daniel Nguyen for doubles wins that helped ensure important doubles points for the Trojans in both matches. In singles, Magdas pounded out a straight-set win at the No. 3 position that got USC ahead 3-0 against the Bears. The next day, with the match against #4 Stanford hanging in the balance tied up 3-3, Magdas pulled off a three-set nailbiter, working ahead late in the match to clinch the last win for USC 7-6 (4), 6-7 (2), 7-5 and secure the upset win. Now ranked #83 in singles, Magdas has improved his singles record to 22-10 overall and is 12-4 in dual match play.

GREATNESS RETURNING: 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 has been tabbed as the headliner on USC's ladder. Although recently sidelined by injury, Farah has been cruising through singles play this season and is ranked #3 in the nation in singles. In the win count on the season so far, McNaughton actually leads the group in singles victories so far this season, holding a 29-13 record. Farah also is in the 20-win zone at 22-5, as is Magdas at 22-10.

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 clocked in at No. 46 behind second-ranked Farah/Johnson. Now seasoned Trojans, Johnson, Kecki and Nguyen have all hit the 20-win mark in singles play. Johnson is now 26-10, with Kecki at 24-10 and Nguyen at 25-8.

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 now-No. 4 ranked doubles pair. Farah/Johnson hold a 27-8 overall record and are 14-5 in dual match play so far.

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