Ex-Trojan coach Masi returns as a USC rival

The No. 1 USC men’s tennis team looks to continue its strong start at Marks Tennis Stadium against the University of San Diego today at 2:30 p.m.

Teamwork · Senior Robert Farah has paired with sophomore Steve Johnson as a doubles partner early in the Trojans’ 2010 season. - Sunil Murali | Daily Trojan

A familiar face leads the Toreros — first-year head coach Brett Masi, who was an assistant coach for the Trojans the past four seasons.

Masi was a crucial component to the national championship run last year, and the players are excited to reacquaint themselves with their former coach.

“Brett was a huge part of our team and is close to a lot of the guys, so this will push them to be at their absolute best,“ USC coach Peter Smith said.

Players feel that Masi’s familiarity with USC could give the Toreros an advantage in preparation.

“[Masi] has more insight to our game, to our play,” junior Jaak Poldma said.

USD will open its season against the Trojans (2-0, 0-0), as its first scheduled match against the University of San Francisco was postponed because of inclement weather.

The Toreros finished with a 9-14 record last season. They have five returning letter winners along with four newcomers to this year’s squad.

One of the returning stars is junior Dean Jackson, who compiled a 17-4 singles record last season. He finished the year ranked No. 34.

Along with Jackson, sophomore Nikola Bubnic has performed impressively individually so far this season.

Earlier this month, at the Collegiate Tennis Competition in Palm Springs, Calif., Bubnic beat No. 36 senior Clay Donato of University of North Carolina and lost a close match to No. 90 senior Bassam Beidas of Pepperdine 7-6, 7-6.

San Diego’s strong singles lineup and the familiarity Masi has with USC’s squad should challenge the Trojans as they continue to adjust to the dual-match season.

“We are just getting back into the team environment,” said sophomore Steve Johnson. “We need to keep working and progressing to our goal of winning the NCAA’s.”

The team is looking forward to playing on a normal schedule, but — just as last week — bad weather looks like it may be an issue again.

Rain is forecasted for Tuesday, potentially postponing the reunion of Masi and the Trojans.

If the match is able to be played as scheduled, the Trojans will surely be motivated.

“I know every guy on the team is going to be looking at being at their best to show coach Masi how good they are playing,“ Smith said.