After a rare weekend off from competition, the No. 3 USC men’s tennis team is back at home to face No. 17 Wake Forest in the first ever meeting between the two programs.
Coming off one of the biggest wins in program history, a road win at UCLA for the first time since 1991, USC coach Peter Smith is wary of a potential letdown against a strong and deep Demon Deacon (5-2, 2-0) squad.
“Yes, I am worried about a letdown. Wake is a team capable of beating any team in the country,” Smith said. “You only have to look at their match with No. 2 Tennessee to realize the potential they have. They are strong at the top and have good depth.”
The Demon Deacons are coming off a 4-3 home loss to the Volunteers. In that match, Wake Forest’s No. 20 Tripper Carleton suffered his first singles loss of the season against No. 4 Tennessee singles player John-Patrick Smith.
Wake Forest No. 67 Steve Forman is the reigning ACC Player of the Week, who along with Carleton will challenge the top of the Trojan lineup. The Demon Deacons have two other players ranked in singles and one ranked doubles team.
The Trojans (12-1, 0-0) understand that Wake Forest is a formidable opponent and say they and will not be preoccupied with the possibility of a setback.
“Coaches worry more about that when they prepare the team,” junior Jaak Poldma said of a potential letdown. “As players, we don’t worry about that, we just have to keep going as before. We know this is an important match.”
The Trojans’ defeat of the Bruins propelled them in the rankings as they moved up from the No. 5 slot to the No. 3 slot, jumping ahead of No. 4 Ohio State and No. 5 Texas, who gave USC its only loss of the season.
For the third time in four weeks, a Trojan has been named the Pac-10 men’s tennis Player of the Week. This week, sophomore Steve Johnson was honored for his dominating singles win and strong doubles performance with senior Robert Farah at UCLA.
Johnson joins sophomore Daniel Nguyen and Poldma as Trojan recipients of Player of the Week honors.
In the midst of the second half of the season, the road will not get any easier, and the Trojans do not plan on dwelling on their positive accomplishments so far. As they have all season, they will continue to focus on improving their play, starting with Wake Forest at Marks Stadium today.
“We are a little more than halfway through the season,” Smith said. “So many good things have happened to us, but we can’t forget that we have to keep getting one day better everyday.”