No. 7 USC Men Aim For Perfection At Home On Friday

March 21, 2007

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THIS WEEK: No. 7 USC may have been dealt its first loss of the season last week against top-ranked Georgia, but the Trojans are settling in to build up another win streak. USC has won two in a row as it turns to host UNLV this week. The Trojans host the Rebels at 2 p.m. on Friday (March 23).

ITA RANKING UPDATES: USC has taken near 40 steps forward in the ITA team rankings, jumping from a #43 start to the season to hold its highest ranking at #4 for the week of March 13 -- USC's highest rank since the close of the 2004 season. The Trojans are now ranked #7 in the latest ITA team rankings (released March 20). The latest individual rankings of the season (as of March 20) has Dejan Cvetkovic at #77, Jamil Al-Agba at #45 and Jason McNaughton at #113 in singles. Al-Agba/Cvetkovic also are ranked #36 in doubles.

USC VS. UNLV: USC is 12-0 all-time against the Rebels. USC won last year's match 5-2 to keep the Trojans' undefeated run against UNLV intact. Unranked UNLV is 7-9 overall this season and has #59 Elliott Wronski ranked in singles.

HOME-COURT ADVANTAGE: USC's home schedule this season is a good one. The Trojans opened 2007 with eight straight home matches, and play four of their seven Pac-10-counting matches within the familiar spread of Marks Stadium. All told, USC has 15 of its 22 dual matches at home. USC has won all 10 home matches so far this season.

WINS OF CHANGE: After a frustrating 2006 season in which the Trojans failed to reach the NCAA Championships and suffered through nine tight 4-3 losses, USC has kicked 2007 off to a much stronger start with a heap of tallies in the win columns across the board and an undefeated 11-0 record ¬-- the Trojans' best season start since 1988 -- until facing top-ranked Georgia on the road. Every player boasts a singles mark of at least .500. Junior Kaes Van't Hof leads the way with 21 wins already, with freshman Jason McNaughton next in line with 20. Seniors Dejan Cvetkovic and Jamil Al-Agba also have broken the 10-win mark as well in singles action with 14 and 13, respectively, as has freshmen Robert Farah (10) and Gary Sacks (14). USC has dropped just 18 singles points during dual match play, and is 33-9 on the doubles scene in dual matches as well.

BATTLE-TESTED: In September 2006, head coach Peter Smith took his USC players to Camp Pendleton, to take on two days of basic training drills alongside the U.S. Marines. In addition to a commitment to conditioning, the Trojans took away a sense of teamwork and focus that Smith hopes to have translate into a winning season for his USC squad.

ON THE KAES: Junior Kaes Van't Hof earned his first career Pac-10 Player of the Week award after clinching USC's 5-2 win over #44 Fresno State and then winning again at the No. 2 position against #18 Boise State on Feb. 10 to help improve USC's winning streak to seven straight. With a pair of doubles wins as well from the No. 2 slot, Van't Hof won his sixth straight match with teammate Robert Farah with a comeback victory, fighting back from 4-7 to win 9-7 and clinch the doubles point against #18 Boise State.

DEJAN GETS IT DONE: Senior Dejan Cvetkovic became the second Trojan to win a Pac-10 Player of the Week award this season after tacking up two more singles wins and remaining undefeated in doubles play with Jamil Al-Agba to help lift USC to its best season start since 1991. Cvetkovic secured the doubles point against Texas A&M with a tight 9-7 win to remain undefeated at the No. 1 slot with Al-Agba before winning his singles match to keep USC moving toward victory. Against San Diego, Cvetkovic had the clinching singles win, pulling out a 7-6 (5), 6-3 win. He now has won the honor twice in his career at Troy.

TAKE TWO: Kaes Van't Hof didn't leave much doubt about capturing a second Pac-10 Player of the Week award. After a doubles sweep and two three-set singles victories that both clinched dual match wins for the Trojans in a 4-3 win over #17 Rice and a 6-1 win over #6 UCLA on March 9, Van't Hof was the weekly winner once again. The wins put Van't Hof on a 10-match winning streak in singles play, holding him undefeated in dual match action, and secured an 11-match winning streak for the Trojans as a team.

SUDDEN IMPACT: Three USC freshmen -- Robert Farah, Jason McNaughton and Gary Sacks -- have jumped right into their roles at Troy, garnering big wins for the Trojans in 2007. Farah and McNaughton have been in the lineup for 13 of USC's 14 dual matches. Farah holds an 10-3 record, and McNaughton is 11-2 in dual matches (20-7 overall). Sacks has appeared in nine dual matches, posting an 8-1 record to round out a combined 29-6 dual match singles mark for the trio.

ON SMITH'S WATCH: Peter Smith, the 2004 Pac-10 Coach of the Year, enters his fifth season as head coach of the Trojan men's tennis program. He has compiled a 327-178 (.948) career coaching record and is 57-43 (.570) at USC. After five years at Pepperdine, Smith came to Troy 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. Smith is the only head coach ever to lead four different programs to national top-25 rankings and the only coach to guide three different schools to the NCAA quarterfinals and top-5 national rankings (USC, Pepperdine and Fresno State). In 2004, Smith enjoyed one of the greatest seasons of his career, leading USC to the NCAA Semifinals and a No. 4 final ITA ranking. That year, USC went 23-4 overall and 6-1 in the Pac-10 to claim a share of the conference title -- USC's 14th title overall (first since 1994) and the seventh conference championship of his career.

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