USC will take another step in its season Friday with its first true away match at No. 15 Pepperdine.
This match marks the beginning of a stretch where the Trojans will play four of their next five matches on the road.
The recent ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Virginia marked a transition in the No. 5 USC men’s tennis team’s (8-1, 0-0) season. The tournament was the first match the Trojans played away from the friendly confines of Marks Stadium this season.
The Waves (3-2, 0-0) have started the season playing some highly ranked opponents on the road, losing to No. 6 UCLA and No. 3 Ohio State, while beating Michigan.
The Pepperdine lineup consists of two ranked singles players and one ranked doubles team, and its experience this year has prepared them well for USC.
“Having played Ohio State and UCLA already, that’s the level of opponent we’re going to see on Friday,” Pepperdine coach Adam Steinberg told the Waves’ official website. “We played really well in those matches and at home. I think we have the team that can compete with anybody.”
Although the Trojans’ ranking dropped from No. 1 to No. 5 in the most recent collegiate rankings following the Indoor Championships, the Trojans are also coming into the match feeling good about the way they are playing tennis.
“We have played some high-level matches, which helps our confidence and match rhythm,” senior Robert Farah said.
Doubles play and healing from injuries remain areas where the Trojans would like to improve. The team will continue to monitor sophomore Steve Johnson’s back injury, which is not anticipated to be a problem against Pepperdine, but has affected both his play and the team’s doubles lineup at times this season.
Junior Jaak Poldma received some more good news after his exceptional play at the Indoor Championships.
After being recognized by the USC Credit Union as the USC Student-Athlete of the Week, Poldma was named the Pac-10 Men’s Tennis Player of the Week — the first time he has obtained this honor.
As the away matches commence, team members said they understand what it will take to achieve success away from campus.
“Our goal is to stay focused and keep our sense of urgency,” Farah said.
As the season continues to progress, the sense of a competitive fire on the court is crucial as the Trojans get a better handle on the team’s overall health.
“The season is off [to a good start], we just need to have everyone healthy and ready to go,” Smith said.