No. 5 USC Men Aim For NCAA Title In Athens

May 18, 2010

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The defending NCAA champion USC men's tennis team has upgraded its seeding for this year's NCAA Men's Tennis Championships, weighing in at No. 5. The Trojans charged to the national championship last season as a No. 8 seed, and will began defense of that crown with first- and second-round wins at home last week. USC topped Marist 4-0 to open the 2010 NCAA action, and then beat Fresno State 4-1 to snag that trip to Athens., Ga. Now, the Trojans set off for their fourth straight appearance in the NCAA Round of 16. All the action in Athens begins on Friday (May 21) when No. 5 seeded USC (21-3) faces No. 12 seed Kentucky (25-8) in a Round of 16 match at 9 a.m. ET at Georgia's Dan Magill Tennis Complex. The NCAA Team Championships are set to run May 21-25, with individual competition continuing in Athens from May 26-31.

This year's NCAA appearance is the Trojans' fourth straight trip to the postseason and 32nd overall. In winning the 2009 title in College Station, Texas, the Trojans have claimed 17 national championships all-time. They now hold an overall NCAA tournament record of 70-29 after their 2010 opening round victories. And with a 21-3 overall record so far this year, USC currently holds a No. 5 national ranking in the latest Campbell/ITA rankings as the 2010 Trojans toted a 19-win record into this year's NCAA Championships for the fourth consecutive season. USC is the automatic qualifier out of the Pac-10 Conference.

NCAA Championship host Georgia will be running live scoring updates online through a Championship Central page at

USC captured a pair of solid wins during its home stand to open the NCAA Team Tournament. The Trojans first topped Marist 4-0 in the first round before beating #28 Fresno State 4-1 in the second round at Marks Stadium to punch their ticket to Athens. Robert Farah and Steve Johnson both finished out wins in singles and doubles for both matches, and the duo of Daniel Nguyen and JT Sundling also won out on the doubles courts to help carry USC to one more winning weekend at Marks Stadium.

USC has two players set to perform on NCAA tennis' historic stage this month, with singles and doubles selections to the coming NCAA Individual Championships at Georgia's Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga, from May 26-31. Pac-10 Doubles Champions Robert Farah and Steve Johnson will pull double duty with singles and doubles draws on tap. The 2010 Pac-10 Player of the Year and singles champion, Robert Farah already has an NCAA Doubles Championship (2008) and a NCAA Team Championship (2009) to his name. Now a senior, he is making his third trip to the NCAA Singles competition, with Round of 16 and First Round appearances in his previous journeys. He enters the 2010 NCAA Singles Championships ranked No. 9 in the nation and as a 9-16 seed into the tournament. Now a sophomore, Steve Johnson also was instrumental in getting the Trojans that 2009 team title. In singles, Johnson was the nation's top-ranked player for several rankings cycles and currently ranks No. 3 in the nation. He's the No. 2 seed for the 2010 NCAA Singles showdown in Georgia. As a freshman, Johnson also secured a spot in the NCAA singles action, reaching the 2010 NCAA Round of 16 in his first year as a Trojan.

Powerhouse doubles pair Robert Farah/Steve Johnson is ranked No. 2 in the nation and picked up the No. 3 seed for this year's NCAA run. Farah/Johnson also competed in the 2009 NCAA Doubles action and reached the Round of 16. This year, the Farah/Johnson doubles duo repeated as the Pac-10 Doubles Team of the Year after winning the 2010 Pac-10 Doubles Championship.

The latest Campbell/ITA national team rankings (released May 3) 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 May 3. There, Steve Johnson remains ranks #3 in singles. Senior Robert Farah also stays in the top-10, now at #9, with three other Trojans settled in the rankings: #83 Daniel Nguyen, #89 Jaak Poldma and #121 Peter Lucassen. In doubles, three Trojan teams are in the rankings. With #2 Farah/Johnson in the lead, also ranked are the pairings of #60 McNaughton/Nguyen and #73 Johnson/Nguyen.

USC 2009 NCAA title run began at home, with the Trojans beating UC Santa Barbara 4-0 and Minnesota 4-0 in the first two rounds before returning to the same site it had won its previous national championship in 2002 -- College Station, Texas. The No. 8-seeded Trojans opened with a tight 4-2 win over fellow Pac-10 power Stanford. USC went on to deal out a 4-0 sweep of top-seeded and undefeated Virginia in the quarterfinals. Next up was a 4-1 win over Texas in semifinal in front of a Longhorn-heavy crowd to move into the title match for the first time since 2002. Up against No. 3 seed Ohio State, the Trojans dug deep and got a match-clinching singles win from Robert Farah to notch a 4-1 victory and claim the 2009 NCAA Championship.

The USC men earned a share of the 2010 Pac-10 Championship with its 5-1 finish in the conference standings. Co-champs with Stanford, the Trojans staked their claim on the Pac-10's automatic qualification to the NCAA Tournament thanks to USC's win over Stanford in the teams' conference clash on April 2. USC's last Pac-10 title was picked up in 2008, when the Trojans wound up as the 2008 conference champions after an ineligible UCLA player turned two Bruin wins to forfeits in that year. That gave USC a 7-0 mark in 2008 Pac-10 action to take the title. Besides the 2008 championship, USC last won the Pac-10 crown in 2004 with a 6-1 finish to share the title. USC last won the Pac-10 title outright in 1994 with a 9-1 mark. In total, USC is in the Pac-10 history books with 30 team championships -- shared and solo combined -- with this 2010 title standing as the Trojans' 31st conference crown dating back to 1934.

It's been a team effort for the Trojans in working their way to a share of the 2010 Pac-10 Championship. The USC men claimed five Pac-10 Player of the Week awards this season, giving the Trojans the lead for all-time selections with a grand total of 15. This year, four different Trojans won the weekly honor -- two for Daniel Nguyen and one apiece for Jaak Poldma, Steve Johnson and Jason McNaughton. This season's selections have been the first of each Trojans' career. McNaughton's selection was the latest to go on the USC tally after the senior came through with a powerful straight-set win over #7 Stanford's Greg Hirshman -- handing the Cardinal player his first loss of the season at the No. 6 singles position - to take USC ahead 3-1 as the remaining three matches all went into tense three-setters last week. His win also helped secure him a spot in the lineup for the following day against #17 California. There, McNaughton was slotted at No. 5, and the senior captured another win by handing a rare dual-match loss to Riki McLachlan to round out USC's 6-1 win over the Bears. In limited time this season due to early-season injury, McNaughton won five straight singles matches in Pac-10 play before taking a loss vs. UCLA.

Steve Johnson was ranked #1 from January until March 2 when he moved to #3 for one rankings cycle. During that stretch, the sophomore earned his first career Pac-10 Player of the Week honor, beating UCLA's Holden Seguso and Wake Forest's #20 Tripper Carleton. After doing so, Johnson moved back to #1 and remained there until April 13, displaced that week by Tennessee's JP Smith, whom Johnson beat in the fall. Now ranked #3, Johnson enters the NCAA Team Round of 16 holding a nine-match winning streak for a 28-4 overall singles record and a 17-3 mark in dual-match play.

The No. 1 singles slot has been shared by Steve Johnson and Robert Farah to the tune of a 22-2 combined record in that position as the Trojans enter the NCAA Team Round of 16. Robert Farah holds court with a 15-1 mark on top, falling only in a three-setter to then-#5 Dimitar Kutrovsky of Texas. Now ranked #9 in the nation, the 2009 Pac-10 Player of the Year and Pac-10 Singles Champion currently boasts an 13-match win streak for a 32-5 overall singles record with a 19-2 mark in dual-match play.

Daniel Nguyen built up a nice 15-match singles winning streak that carried him to the Pac-10 singles semifinals. Along the way, Nguyen snagged his first career Pac-10 Player of the Week honors -- two of them -- after bigtime singles and doubles play in USC's first win over Stanford and then later after a powerful road trip through Duke and Georgia. Nguyen is now ranked #83 in the nation in singles and holds a 34-6 overall record and 17-1 mark in dual-match play on the way into the NCAA Team Round of 16. He leads the team in singles wins, just ahead of Robert Farah's 32 to date.

USC's fourth player with 20-plus wins this season, Jaak Poldma was the first to start the trend of Trojan Pac-10 Player of the Week honorees. At the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, Poldma tallied wins across the board, getting two singles and doubles wins and leading in both his suspended matches. Poldma stayed flawless in dual-match singles play from the No. 3 position, beating Kellen Damico of Texas and #118 Nick Meister of UCLA both in straight sets. Those singles wins put him on a six-match overall win streak. Poldma also stretched to a six-match win streak in doubles with Peter Lucassen with that weekend's success, including an 8-6 upset of UCLA's #36 Brooklyn/Stewart. Sidelined for singles in USC's first two NCAA matches due to injury, Poldma ranks #89 in singles with a 21-7 overall record in singles with a 14-4 mark in dual-match play as he and the Trojans start the NCAA Team Round of 16. Poldma and Lucassen are 14-4 together in dual-match doubles.

USC has won the doubles point in all but three matches this year. Those three lost doubles points both wound up as USC's only three losses to date. With the majority of time at the top slot, Pac-10 champs and #2-ranked duo of Robert Farah and Steve Johnson hold an 13-1 record at No. 1 entering the NCAA Team Round of 16. Daniel Nguyen has been a power partner at the No. 2 slot, most recently pairing with JT Sundling there for a 7-1 mark, and also pairing with Jason McNaughton and Johnson. 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 14-4 together in dual-match doubles.

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