The nomadic No. 5 USC men’s tennis team begins on another road trip this weekend with a match today against conference opponent No. 15 California and a Saturday match at No. 14 Stanford.
Interestingly, these matches do not count toward the official Pac-10 record because each team only plays each of the other six Pac-10 men’s tennis teams once during the conference season.
Both the Golden Bears (7-1, 0-0) and Cardinal (7-2, 0-0) will play at Marks Stadium for their official Pac-10 matches in the beginning of April.
This fact does not diminish the importance of these clashes for USC (10-1, 0-0).
“It’s super important to keep everyone going in the right direction against two top-15 teams on the road,” USC coach Peter Smith said.
Cal is coming off a come-from-behind 4-3 victory at Stanford, which helped the Golden Bears land the No. 15 ranking. Along with the ranking, Cal’s No. 111 freshman Christoffer Konigsfeldt was recognized as last week’s Pac-10 Player of the Week honor for his effort in the clinching match against Stanford.
The Golden Bears also have two other ranked singles players — in addition to Konigsfeldt — along with two ranked doubles teams.
The Cardinal also boasts some highly ranked players and will start with the familiar No. 2 duo of Ryan Thacher and Bradley Klahn.
No. 26 Alex Clayton and Richard Wire comprise another strong doubles team for Stanford. Klanh and Clayton are also ranked in the top 35 in singles.
Earlier this semester, USC sophomore Daniel Nguyen and senior Jason McNaughton defeated Thacher and Klahn at the Sherwood Cup in January.
Playing a stretch of three straight road matches against the upper echelon of the Pac-10 — USC plays at No. 7 UCLA on Wednesday — might be demanding in the present, but it can turn out to be an advantage in the long run.
“Playing away at Cal, Stanford and UCLA is not ideal, but we get them at home at the end of the year,” said sophomore Steve Johnson.
The last time USC played matches on back-to-back days Johnson’s recurring back stiffness affected the lineup and the team’s overall play at the ITA Indoor Championships, but he does not foresee an issue this time around.
“I don’t think so; I’ve played back to back matches many times before,” Johnson said regarding his back injury. “It’s nothing out of the ordinary.”
The Trojans have recently built some momentum heading into this weekend’s road trip. A successful trip up to the Bay Area will create more momentum that could carry the Trojans a long way.