Another non-conference home match, another victory for the No. 1 USC men’s tennis team (5-0, 0-0).
On Monday, the Trojans swept UC Irvine (3-2, 0-0) 7-0, as the Anteaters became the fifth opposing squad to fall short at Marks Tennis Stadium this season.
The depth of the USC lineup was on display, as the Trojans received contributions from a number of players.
On this day, USC coach Peter Smith was finally able to use the doubles lineup he had anticipated to use at the beginning of the season.
All three pairs won fairly easily as sophomores Daniel Nguyen and Steve Johnson paired up at No.1, senior Robert Farah and freshman JT Sundling played in the second position and juniors Peter Lucassen and Jaak Poldma finished out the doubles lineup.
Players said being familiar with other members of the team has helped them adjust to any changes smoothly.
“[Switching partners] is not really a problem, if I do my part, my partner will do the same,” Nguyen explained. “I’m used to playing with these guys all of the time.”
In singles play, several players displayed a strong competitive spirit in coming back from some early deficits.
After winning the first set 6-4, No. 65 Sundling found himself down one break at 1-4 in the second. He wound up winning six of the next seven games to close out the decisive set over sophomore Steven Henderson, in his first singles appearance of the year.
No. 1 Steve Johnson, playing in the second singles position, also found himself trailing against the animated sophomore Sam Gould. Johnson overcame the break and went on to win 6-2, 6-4.
No. 14 Farah, playing No. 1 singles for the first time this season, hit the shot of the day in his 6-2, 6-4 defeat of sophomore Fabian Matthews.
Matthews connected on a deep passing shot, and as Farah approached the ball — with his back facing the net — he hit the ball between his legs and lobbed it over Matthew’s head for a winner.
Smith had planned all along to flip Johnson’s and Farah’s singles positions and felt that there should not be too much made of player’s lineup positions.
“They are going to be constantly switching throughout the year, they’re both great players,” Smith said.
In the other matches, Lucassen displayed his strong baseline play in his straight-set triumph, and Smith lauded No. 47 sophomore Matt Kecki’s “strong sustained effort” in his 7-5, 6-2 victory over junior Stephen Stege.
With the rest of the team cheering on in support, No. 116 Poldma pulled through in a tough three setter against senior Shimpei Suzuki, finishing off the match with a 5-7, 7-6 (5), 1-0 (10-7) win.
In evaluating the overall performance of his team, Smith described the adversity his players faced.
“We experienced some letdowns in the second set, but our players all finished strong,” Smith said.
Following the ITA Kick-Off Championship last weekend, the team might have faced a bit of a letdown, but the concerted effort to win all of yesterday’s matches is a mark of a truly mature and championship-caliber team.