The USC men’s tennis team will head across town today to take part in what will be many players’ final official tournament of the semester.
Six Trojans will participate in the Southern California Intercollegiate Championships at the Los Angeles Tennis Center — the home of the UCLA Bruins — where 11 other schools will participate, including UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, Pepperdine, University of Denver, Brigham Young University, Loyola Marymount, UC San Diego, Concordia University, UC Irvine, UC Riverside and Azusa Pacific University.
Five Trojans will participate in the singles main draw: No. 1 seed junior Daniel Nguyen, No. 4 seed senior Jaak Poldma, senior Peter Lucassen, freshman Raymond Sarmiento and sophomore JT Sundling.
In the doubles portion, USC coach Peter Smith will continue to switch the lineups with pairs that have not played together extensively in competitions.
“With doubles, I’m always trying new things,” Smith said. “I’m never satisfied with the status quo.”
Nguyen will team up with Sarmiento as the No. 2 seed, Poldma will play with Sundling as the No. 3 seed, and Lucassen and freshman Michael Grant will start play in the qualifying draw.
Although USC’s attendance at the tournament is optional, the team said it relishes the opportunity to play against tough competition.
“This is another chance to play more matches,” Smith said. “It is important to take good results into the break. We want to translate good practice habits onto the courts.”
USC took a slightly unorthodox approach to preparing for the tournament. In addition to some good plays on the practice courts, the Trojans took part in a beach workout, including a competitive pickup soccer game.
Poldma said he believes that translating good results from the practice court this week will be important, especially when the team’s younger players take to the court of their crosstown rivals for the first time.
“It’s good for some of the guys — especially the freshmen — to play there before the UCLA match,” Poldma said.
One of the newcomers, Grant, has experienced some success as a Trojan already — he won the consolation bracket of the ITA Southwest Regionals last week. The freshman said that his transition to the Trojan lineup has been what he had hoped it would be.
“So far it’s been pretty fun,” Grant said. “I came here for the best tennis program in the nation. It’s been what I expected it to be — fun and competitive.”
As a junior player, Grant played in Europe, and he said that environment has helped him adjust to college tennis.
“I try not to become overconfident, but I have won a lot of matches, which has helped me,” he said.
The Trojans have definitely not exceeded expectations during the individual season, but facing some adversity is important before the intensity ratchets up during the dual match season, Smith said.
“They have had their butts kicked a little bit this semester, which has been good for us,” Smith said. “It’s good for us to focus on the future because the hangover of being two-time national champions is much more severe than from one year ago.”