The No. 1 USC men’s tennis squad (4-0, 0-0) won in every sense of the word this weekend.
On Sunday, the Trojans faced off against No. 73 Yale University (1-1, 0-0) and swept the Bulldogs 7-0.
In doubles, freshman J.T. Sundling made his season debut after recovering from mononucleosis. He teamed up with senior Robert Farah and defeated their Yale counterparts — freshmen John Huang and Marc Powers — 8-1.
Sundling and Farah had only played together once — in practice — before the match, but USC coach Peter Smith was not wary of placing the experienced senior with the newcomer.
“When you’re good, you’re good, and Rob’s a good doubles player,” Smith said in explaining the pairing.
Sundling was a highly sought-after recruit himself, qualifying for a berth in last year’s U.S. Open doubles draw alongside Trojan sophomore Daniel Nguyen.
Sundling said he was pleased with his performance Sunday.
“It felt really good to be playing again,” Sundling said. “I played pretty well, I was pretty happy with the way that I served.”
In other action, juniors Peter Lucassen and Jaak Poldma sealed the doubles point by winning the last four games of the pro set to defeat Yale’s Calvin Bennett-led pairing 8-5.
With Sundling active, sophomore Daniel Nguyen and senior Jason McNaughton moved up to the No. 1 spot but were unable to complete the sweep, losing to sophomores Erik Blumenkranz and Joel Samaha 8-5.
In singles, USC gained an early advantage when Bennett was forced to retire from his match with Poldma leading 4-1 in the first set because of an ankle injury.
The rest of the Trojans did not drop a set with Kecki, Nguyen, Lucassen and Farah all out-matching their opponents.
Johnson finished off the day with a hard-fought victory over Powers 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 in an intense match.
On Saturday, USC cruised to a 4-1 victory in the first round of the tournament against No. 49 Vanderbilt (4-2, 0-0) on Saturday.
Doubles action started off with McNaughton and Nguyen easily defeating the Vanderbilt pairing of sophomore Charlie Jones and freshman Ryan Lipman 8-2.
Following their example, USC’s No. 13 combo of senior Robert Farah and sophomore Steve Johnson triumphed 8-5 over juniors Adam Baker and Alex Zotov to secure the doubles point.
In singles play, the top three positions exerted their will with straight-set victories. No. 1 Steve Johnson defeated No. 29 Lipman 6-3, 6-2, and Poldma and Farah secured solid wins.
Zotov defeated No. 47 USC sophomore Matt Kecki 6-4, 6-2 for the only blemish on the final tally.
The victories sealed the ITA Kick-Off Championship for USC and a berth to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships starting Feb. 12 in Charlottesville, Va.
But before heading East, USC has some business to care of at home.
Today, the Trojans host a match against UC Irvine (3-1, 0-0) at 1:30 p.m. The Anteaters’ only loss was against No. 26 University of Washington.
Smith wants to approach the UCI match as an opportunity to give his younger players meaningful experience.
“We want Peter, Kecki and J.T. to get comfortable competing and winning,” Smith said.
During this stretch of non-conference home matches, USC has successfully defended its court against teams giving their best shots in hopes of knocking off the top-ranked Trojans.
UCI will be no different, and, even though USC will be big favorites, Smith explains that they plan on being fully prepared for the Anteater attack.
“Opponents play very well against us, we know that, and we’re ready for that,” Smith said.