No. 4 USC Men Aim For Pac-10 Championship

April 16, 2008

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THIS WEEK: USC can snap a four-year Pac-10 title win streak held by UCLA as the No. 4-ranked Trojans (19-3, 6-0 Pac-10) host the No. 5 Bruins this week. A win would round out USC's first undefeated conference season since 1987 and claim a 15th Pac-10 championship for the Trojans, who last won the Pac-10 title in 2004. USC hosts crosstown rival UCLA at 3 p.m. on Friday (April 18) at Marks Stadium. The Trojans bring a 10-match win streak into Friday's face-off.

ITA RANKING UPDATES: USC ranks No. 4 in the latest ITA rankings, released April 13. The latest individual rankings also were released on April 13, with four Trojans in the rankings -- #7 Robert Farah, #34 Kaes Van't Hof, #68 Gary Sacks and #97 Jaak Poldma. In doubles, Farah/Van't Hof remain ranked #2 in the nation.

SCOUTING UCLA: The Bruins rank No. 5 in the nation this week, holding a 19-1 overall record and 6-0 Pac-10 mark after beating ASU 4-3 and Arizona 5-2 last week. UCLA has won 13 straight matches entering this week's first match against UC Irvine. UCLA has four ranked players -- #23 Harel Srugo, #27 Mathieu Dehaine, #52 Holden Seguso and #81 Haythem Abid -- and #45 Srugo/Meister ranked in doubles. USC is 80-94 all-time against UCLA after falling 5-2 to the Bruins earlier this season in Westwood.

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. USC currently owns a 47.5-32.5 advantage in pursuit of the 150-pound, pewter-gilded trophy presented by the Southern California Lexus Dealers. USC needs just 10 more points to clinch the trophy. In the first six years of the Gauntlet competition, the archrivals have alternated winning the trophy. USC won the inaugural trophy in 2002, 2004 and 2006. UCLA captured the rivalry's crown jewel in 2003, 2005 and 2007.

RECENT ACTION: USC extended its win streak to 10 straight with a road sweep last week. The Trojans first topped host #18 ASU 4-3 and then beat #65 Arizona 7-0. Throughout the weekend, win streaks grew for several Trojans -- doubles team Farah/Van't Hof carried on their undefeated run through dual match play for a 15-match win streak, while in singles Kaes Van't Hof's streak stretched to 12 straight, Jaak Poldma's run upped to 10 straight, and Jason McNaughton won his fourth and fifth straight singles matches.

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. Gary Sacks secured the upset win for Troy with a 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 win at No. 4 over Luis Diaz Barriga. 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. Securing victory for the Trojans was Abdullah Magdas out of the No. 6 slot, as he dispatched Ross Cunningham 7-6 (4), 6-4. 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 nine losses in dual match action from their top slots in the ladder to help lead the Trojans. Farah is 28-10 overall in singles and 14-5 in dual matches, although injury took him out of the lineup for one week. Van't Hof boasts a 24-8 overall mark and 18-4 record in dual match play and rides a 12-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 45-19 (.703) record at the three positions in dual match play. Gary Sacks has gone 6-5 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 has gone 7-6 at the No. 5 position and is 5-1 from the No. 6 slot, while Abdullah Magdas holds a 5-4 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 15-match win streak, the pair holds a 28-3 overall record together this season after a clean 15-0 run through dual match doubles play so far this season.

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. Polma has been USC's most successful dual match player, going 17-1 in dual match singles and holding a 26-5 overall record.

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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