No. 5 USC Men Pay A Visit To No. 6 UCLA On Wednesday

March 2, 2010

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The No. 5 USC men snapped a six-match losing slump crosstown rival UCLA with a February win over the Bruins, but it's been almost 20 years since USC last managed back-to-back wins against UCLA in a single season. The Trojans got a pair of wins back in 1991, and this week USC (11-1) has the chance to duplicate that effort with a visit to No. 6 UCLA (6-2) for a 3 p.m. match on Wednesday (March 3).

The latest ITA national team rankings (released March 2) have defending NCAA champ USC still ranked No. 5 in the nation after the Trojans' first loss slipped them out of the No. 1 spot at which they opened the year. The latest individual rankings also were released March 2. There, #3 Steve Johnson still leads the Trojans although he's slipped out of the No. 1 slot he had presided over since Jan. 5's first rankings. Joining him in the top-10 is #9 Robert Farah, with four other Trojans settled in the rankings.#76 Peter Lucassen, #93 Jaak Poldma, #96 JT Sundling and #116 Daniel Nguyen. In doubles, three Trojan teams are in the rankings: #13 Farah/Johnson, #32 Johnson/Nguyen and #40 McNaughton/Nguyen.

USC notched two more wins last week, kicking things off with a 7-0 sweep of San Diego State at Marks Stadium before heading north for matches at Cal and Stanford. Rains washed out the match with the Bears, but USC took the courts at Stanford the next day. In a match flip-flopped by inclement weather, the teams opted to play out singles first, with doubles play on hold due to possible rain and to be played only in the event of a tie in singles. The lock-up happened, and skies stayed clear enough to get in doubles, and that's where the Trojans shined through with a pair of tense wins that secured a 4-3 victory for USC. With the match snarled at 3-3 after singles -- with Robert Farah, Peter Lucassen and Daniel Nguyen claiming singles wins for USC -- doubles action got underway with Stanford taking the early advantage. The Cardinal's #2 Klahn/Thacher notched an 8-4 win over USC's Farah/Sundling at the No. 1 position, leaving all-out battles raging on the other two courts. The Cardinal and the Trojans were in stride with one another in the remaining matches, but USC's #30 Lucassen/Poldma broke through first by snagging a clutch break over their Cardinal opponents Kandath/Lin at No. 3 to post a 9-7 win and even things up in doubles play. Meanwhile, at No. 2, USC's Johnson/Nguyen pressed into a tiebreaker with Stanford's #26 Clayton/Wire. There, the Trojan pair rallied ahead and took a 5-1 lead in the tiebreak. Stanford closed back to 5-3, but Johnson/Nguyen fought it out and pinned up a victorious 7-3 tally in the tiebreak to claim the match and the overall victory for USC with the 9-8 (3) decision.

UCLA is ranked No. 6 in the nation and is 6-2 overall after beating Cal 4-3 last week in Berkeley. The Bruins have four players nationally ranked in singles: #40 Haythem Abid, #50 Matt Brooklyn, #92 Amit Inbar and #118 Nick Meister. Two UCLA doubles teams are ranked: #55 Abid/Meister and #57 Brooklyn/Stewart. USC is 81-98 all-time against UCLA after a 4-0 win over the Bruins in February at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Virginia snapped a six-match losing streak against UCLA. USC has recorded only three wins over UCLA in the previous 10 seasons (3-19 since 2000).

This week's USC-UCLA clash puts another 2.5 points up for grabs in the race to the Crosstown Gauntlet, a trophy awarded annually to the school with the most successful athletic year against the other. Points are awarded to the winner of each Trojan-Bruin head-to-head contest (57.5 points is the magic number). USC captured the inaugural trophy in 2001-02, UCLA won it in 2002-03, USC recaptured it in 2003-04, UCLA won it back in 2004-05, USC claimed it in 2005-06, UCLA was victorious in 2006-07 and, for the first time in the competitions history, a school won it in consecutive years when USC captured it in 2007-08 and 2008-09. Currently, USC leads this season's competition, 42.5-27.5.

After winning out in doubles and singles during USC's 7-0 sweep of San Diego State, Daniel Nguyen came up huge for the Trojans in an incredibly tight match at No. 14 Stanford in a rematch of last year's NCAA Round of 16 clash. His clutch play for the Trojans earned the sophomore his first career selection as Pac-10 Player of the Week. Due to the threat of rain, USC and Stanford opted to play out singles first, with doubles only played in the event of a singles tie and clear skies later in the day. Nguyen had the most decisive singles win of the day as he opened the day with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Matt Kandath to help USC to an early lead. Singles play would end up even 3-3, bringing up the deciding doubles matches. The winning point came down to Nguyen and partner Steve Johnson at the No. 2 position, as the then-unranked Trojan pair faced Stanford's #26 Clayton/Wire. Nguyen and Johnson pushed the match to a tiebreaker and pulled ahead and clinched the match by claiming the tiebreak 7-3 to win the match for USC.

USC junior Jaak Poldma earned his first career honors as Pac-10 Men's Tennis Player of the Week after a dominant all-around performance at the competitive ITA National Team Indoor Championships, staking a claim as the first Trojan to win the weekly honor from the conference this season. Poldma tallied wins across the board for USC, getting two singles wins and two doubles wins and leading in both his suspended matches. #116 Poldma stayed flawless in dual match singles play from the No. 3 singles position, beating Kellen Damico of Texas and #118 Nick Meister of UCLA both in straight sets. Those singles wins improved Polda's singles record on the year to 13-3 with a 6-0 mark in dual-match singles and a six-match overall winning streak. Poldma also stretched to a six-match win streak in doubles with Lucassen after that weekend's success, including an 8-6 upset of UCLA's #36 pair Brooklyn/Stewart.

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