The No. 3 USC men’s tennis team has an opportunity to clinch a share of the Pac-10 title this weekend, but it continues to strive for a more significant objective — to defend its national title.
The Trojans (18-2, 4-0) will travel to Tucson, Ariz., to face No. 35 Arizona (11-8, 1-3) today.
“This is a big match for us,” said USC coach Peter Smith. “It gives us a chance to share the [Pac-10] title, which is not our goal, but it is still a milestone match for us.”
All season long, the Trojans’ efforts have been geared toward winning the NCAA crown.
“It would be nice to win the Pac-10, but the NCAA championship is the goal,” said senior Jason McNaughton.
The Trojans remain the only undefeated team in Pac-10 conference play and control their own destiny in winning their first conference title since 2008 — when USC was awarded the Pac-10 championship after UCLA forfeited two matches because the Bruins included an ineligible player in their lineup.
The team’s mind-set remains steady as the players prepare for the final two conference matches.
“Everyone is focused. We have a great opportunity ahead of us,” McNaughton said of a potential Pac-10 title.“We need to stay focused, not look ahead to UCLA [on April 16].”
Arizona has lost to Stanford, California and Washington by scores of 6-1 and is coming off a victory over Oregon 5-2.
The Wildcats have two ranked players in No. 90 Andres Arango and No. 115 Andres Carrasco.
The Trojans have won the previous five meetings between the schools, including a 7-0 sweep last season at Marks Stadium.
Injuries remain relevant as sophomore Matt Kecki continues to nurse a shoulder injury and will not make the trip this weekend.
The team hopes he will be able to compete against No. 10 UCLA to conclude the season.
USC has seemingly controlled the Pac-10 Player of the Week honors throughout the season.
McNaughton became the latest recipient of the award and the fourth Trojan honored in this manner.
“It’s a nice achievement to have, but it’s more of a team achievement,” McNaughton said. “Everyone really pushes and supports one another during practice and matches.”
In addition to the Pac-10 award, senior Robert Farah was awarded by the USC athletic department during the fifth annual Tommy Athletic Awards this week.
Farah was co-honored as the Male Athlete of the Year for his performance during the 2009 national championship season.
Wide receiver Damian Williams shared the award with Farah.
After a successful start to the conference season, USC seems to be hitting its stride right as the season winds to its conclusion.
“We have five or six guys in good form, and our doubles is looking good,” Smith said.“We are happy to be in this position.”