No. 5 USC Men Pack Up For Pac-10 Openers

March 23, 2010

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The No. 5 USC men continue their road run by heading north for the Trojans' first official Pac-10 matches of the year. USC (14-2) opens things with a visit to No. 67 Oregon at 1:30 p.m. on Friday (March 26) in Eugene. Then it's off to Seattle to go up against No. 21 Washington at 1 p.m. on Saturday (March 27) as the Trojans make their first marks in conference competition for the year.


The latest Campbell/ITA national team rankings (released March 23) have defending NCAA champ USC 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 were released March 16. There, Steve Johnson is back on top as the nation's leader, ranked #1 again in singles. Senior Robert Farah is next in line at #11, with four other Trojans settled in the rankings: #72 Jaak Poldma, #84 Peter Lucassen, #89 Daniel Nguyen and #119 JT Sundling. In doubles, three Trojan teams are in the rankings: #14 Farah/Johnson, #48 McNaughton/Nguyen and #49 Lucassen/Poldma.

USC tripped up in doubles for just the second time this season and wound up with their second loss of the year last week, falling 4-3 to host No. 50 Duke. After trailing 3-1 in the match, USC closed back in to tie on wins from Daniel Nguyen and Jason McNaughton, but the Blue Devils got the upset with #9 Henrique Cunha's win over USC's #1 Steve Johnson. The Trojans rebounded for a resounding win two days later, however. USC snagged a big road victory in topping No. 6 Georgia on the Bulldogs' home courts. The Trojans' 4-2 win over Georgia snapped a 71-match home win streak held by the Bulldogs. USC picked up the doubles point for an early advantage and warded off UGA comeback hopes as Daniel Nguyen and Steve Johnson got straight-set singles wins before Robert Farah staged a comeback to win in three and clinch victory for the Trojans

Oregon is ranked No. 67 in the nation and is 11-4 overall after a 6-1 loss to Nebraska last week. #91 Alexander Cornelissen is ranked in singles and #77 Cornelissen/Verdasco are ranked in doubles. USC is 15-0 all-time against Oregon including a 7-0 win last season.

Washington is ranked No. 21 in the nation and is 14-1 overall, matching its best start in program history. The With a 7-0 win over Eastern Washington last week, the Huskies have won nine straight matches since a 7-0 loss to Illinois at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. #54 Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan is ranked in singles and #69 Obenaus/Rosinski are ranked in doubles. USC is 21-4 all-time against Washington, having won the past three meetings including a 4-3 win last season.

USC recorded its first back-to-back wins against crosstown rival UCLA since 1991 with the Trojans' 6-1 win over the Bruins on March 3 at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. USC had claimed a 4-0 win over UCLA earlier this year at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, and this second look at UCLA was a similarly decisive victory for the Trojans. USC captured the doubles point and then worked ahead with the clincher coming from Matt Kecki to make it a 4-1 USC lead from his No. 6 singles slot.

En route to reclaiming his hold as the No. 1 singles player in the nation, Steve Johnson first picked up his first career honor as the Pac-10 Player of the Week. Johnson was ranked #1 from January until March 2 when he moved to #3 for one rankings cycle. During that stretch, the sophomore got the ball rolling on USC's doubles point and winning run through singles in the #5 Trojans' rivalry match at #6 UCLA last week. Playing with Robert Farah at No. 1 doubles, Johnson put up a solid 8-5 doubles win for a USC advantage in the doubles race. Then, Johnson pinned up a straight-set victory in singles over Holden Seguso to lift the Trojans ahead 2-0 in the match. In doing so, Johnson helped secure USC's first back-to-back wins against crosstown rival UCLA since 1991. As of March 16, Johnson moved back to #1. He now holds a 20-4 overall singles record and 9-3 mark in dual-match play.

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 on March 2. 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. Currently ranked #89, Nguyen has won six straight matches and is now 24-5 overall in singles with a 10-1 mark in dual-match play. He leads the team in singles wins, just ahead of Robert Farah and Steve Johnson's 20 wins apiece to date.

USC junior Jaak Poldma earned his first career honors as Pac-10 Player of the Week on Feb. 16 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. His singles wins put him on 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. Poldma now ranks #72 in singles with an 18-4 overall record in singles with an 11-1 mark in dual-match play. Poldma and Peter Lucassen rank #49 and are 10-3 together in doubles -- all in dual-match action.

USC's doubles strength has been key this season. Although pairings have been shuffling during dual-match play, the Trojans have won the doubles point in all but two matches this year. Those two lost doubles points both wound up in losses for USC -- vs. Texas and at Duke. With the majority of time at the top slot, the #14-ranked duo of Robert Farah and Steve Johnson hold a 6-1 record at No. 1, where USC is 11-4 overall. The large part of the No. 2 position has seen Johnson paired with Daniel Nguyen for a 4-0 record and Nguyen and Jason McNaughton going 3-2 together in that slot. The No. 3 spot has been largely comprised of Peter Lucassen and Jaak Poldma, who opened the year with a 10-0 record in that position and are now 10-3 together in dual-match doubles.

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