A well-traveled No. 5 USC men’s tennis team displayed a determined effort with two decisive victories to open up the Pac-10 season.
On Saturday, the Trojans (16-2, 2-0) defeated No. 21 Washington 6-1, and on Friday, they swept No. 67 Oregon 7-0.
The team felt prepared and expressed a strong will to win in its first two conference matches
“Our team was ready to play these last two days, and nothing was going to stop us from winning,” senior Robert Farah said. “The guys showed commitment, and that’s important.”
Against the Huskies (15-3, 0-2), USC won all three doubles matchups. USC coach Peter Smith was impressed with the doubles play, especially at the No. 2 position featuring sophomore Daniel Nguyen and freshman JT Sundling and at the No. 3 position with juniors Jaak Poldma and Peter Lucassen.
Both duos won easily with scores of 8-4 and 8-2, respectively.
At the No. 1 doubles position, Farah and sophomore Steve Johnson got the break they needed late in the pro set to win a hard-fought match 8-6.
During the singles portion, the Trojans got off to fast starts with the entire lineup winning their respective first sets.
No. 89 Nguyen started things off with his eighth-straight singles win, No. 72 Poldma followed suit with a straight set triumph, and No. 11 Farah clinched the match winning in a second set tiebreak over Kyle McMorrow.
No. 1 Johnson defeated No. 54 Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and senior Jason McNaughton won his match in straight sets to give the Trojans the 6-0 match lead. No. 84 Lucassen finished the day off with the match’s only blemish losing in a third-set super tie-break.
On the previous day, the Trojans played the Ducks (11-6, 0-2) without Farah, who was nursing a back injury.
Farah mentioned that he sat out the Oregon match because his back was a little tight, but he was able to play in the Washington match and said he does not expect his back to affect his play in future matches.
Farah’s absence necessitated a doubles lineup shuffle with Nguyen and McNaughton playing at No. 1, Johnson and Sundling playing at No. 2, and Poldma and Lucassen playing in their customary No. 3 position.
USC won convincingly at the No. 2 and No. 3 positions to secure the match’s first point.
Sundling, Nguyen, Lucassen and Johnson all won their singles matches in straight sets, and Poldma and McNaughton pulled through in tightly contested third-set super tie-breaks to finish off the sweep of the Ducks.
The team’s recent stretch of road matches — eight of the previous 10 matches have been played on the road — has prepared the Trojans for this first weekend of conference play.
“Our tough schedule has set us up to play well in the Pac-10 openers,” Smith said.
The successful opening to the conference season has given USC confidence, but there is still room for improvement, especially with the top conference teams still to come.
So far, the Trojans have responded to the adversity they faced this season, and that winning attitude has pervaded the lineup
“Winning solves most problems,” Smith said. “Winning gives everyone confidence, so that is the key. Winning is contagious.”