USC looks to stay focused in dual meet

The No. 2 USC men’s tennis team welcomes an old friend Saturday in San Diego coach Brett Masi.

Serving as an assistant for the Trojans from 2005-2009, Masi has since taken over as coach of the Toreros and is in the midst of leading the program’s resurgence

Strong play· Freshman Emilio Gomez, who earned Pac-10 Player of the Week, looks to keep his undefeated record intact against San Diego. - Mannat Saini | Daily Trojan

“This match will be really special,” said USC coach Peter Smith. “There’s only one way to treat a former family member, and that’s to beat them.”

Smith is not the only one who views this match with particular interest.

Many upperclassmen, including senior Jaak Poldma and juniors Steve Johnson and Daniel Nguyen, were coached by Masi and are anxiously anticipating his return.

“It’s definitely going to be a tough match because [Masi] knows all of our games,” Nguyen said. “We’ve got to be focused, and treat this as if it were a match against Cal or UCLA.”

No. 47 Toreros (3-1) are coming off split matches at last weekend’s ITA’s Kickoff Weekend in Knoxville, Tenn.

They lost to No. 3 Tennessee 6-1, but responded with a win  last week against No. 60 South Carolina 7-0.

To prepare for San Diego, the Trojans (5-0) are looking to continue to focus on their singles play and aim to be more consistent.

So far, the team has played solidly in the singles department, but is still trying to shake things up and find what works for doubles.

“We have two solid doubles teams, but we’d like to win 3-0,” Johnson said. “That comes with more practice and more communication. We need to find the combinations that work best, and our doubles will be just as good as they have been in the past.”

Smith likes the way the current matchups look, even though he is  unsure if he will stick with them down the stretch.

“I feel really good about doubles now that Steve’s healthy,” Smith said. “We have older and younger pairings, and I like our leadership.”

That leadership is eased by the strong play of the freshman class, including newcomer Emilio Gomez, who was named Pac-10 Player of the Week.

Nguyen, who played doubles last season with sophomore J.T. Sundling, and now plays alongside Gomez, is confident that this communication and comfort will come as the season progresses.

USC hosts the Toreros Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Marks Stadium.