The No. 3 USC men’s tennis team continued its command of the Pac-10 and won at least a share of the conference championship Friday in Tucson, Ariz.
The Trojans (19-2, 5-0) swept No. 35 Arizona (12-9, 1-4) 7-0 to remain the only undefeated team in conference play with one dual match left in the regular season against No. 10 UCLA (13-5, 3-1).
At minimum, USC has clinched a share of the Pac-10 title for the first time during the regular season since 2004, but the Trojans are not satisfied with a shared championship.
“We don’t consider it a win,” junior Jaak Poldma said of clinching on Friday. “We still feel we need to win against UCLA.”
A victory against the Bruins would give the Trojans the Pac-10 crown outright, while a loss would give UCLA a share of the title and leave the opportunity for Stanford
USC coach Peter Smith explained that it is crucial to get off to a good start when playing on the road against a team like Arizona.
During doubles play, the Trojans developed the momentum to help them throughout the rest of the match.
The Wildcats put forth a somewhat unorthodox doubles lineup, playing a less talented team at No. 1 in hopes of obtaining an advantage at the No. 2 and No. 3 spots.
No. 8 senior Robert Farah and sophomore Steve Johnson easily dispatched their opponents 8-2 in the top slot.
At the No. 2 position, sophomore Daniel Nguyen and freshman J.T. Sundling provided the lift that helped propel USC.
Early in the pro set, the Trojan duo was down one break against Geoff Embry and Jason Zafiros.
Nguyen and Sundling then responded with a break of their own to tie the match at 4-4. Then, the duo was able to pull ahead and earn the doubles point with an 8-6 victory.
“Nguyen and Sundling came through at No. 2 doubles,” Smith said. “They were down a break, and you have got to stay up on a team like that. After they won, the whole team started going downhill and really loosened up.”
Juniors Peter Lucassen and Poldma also won with an identical 8-6 score over Andres Carrasco and Jay Goldman.
USC maintained the positive energy during singles play as No. 73 Poldma — playing at No.4 for the first time this season — defeated Zafiros 6-2, 6-3.
Senior Jason McNaughton continued to provide a big lift for the Trojans during conference play with a 6-3, 6-2 victory.
The win improved McNaughton’s record to 5-0 in Pac-10 matches.
No. 15 Farah clinched the match with his defeat of No. 90 Andres Arango 6-2, 7-5.
No. 1 Johnson notched another straight-set victory to extend the Trojans’ lead to 5-0.
No. 83 Nguyen and No. 104 Lucassen both faced stiff competition but both pulled out three set wins.
“I am so pleased with the team’s discipline,” Smith said. “You have to understand how hard it is to play in Arizona; it’s completely different tennis. The ball flies, and the weather is hot. We took care of business, and that’s the sign of a winner.”
The Trojans may have a share of the Pac-10 title, but with a chance for an outright title and the rival Bruins coming to Marks Stadium on Friday, USC is not finished.
“It’s nice to accomplish things,” Smith said. “We selfishly want more. We will continue to strive for more.”