Trojans head north, face stiff competition

Following last week’s 5-2 victory against then-No. 20 Pepperdine, one thing became apparent: The team is dealing with injuries.

Freshman Michael Grant was out with a foot injury during practice and both freshman Ray Sarmiento and senior Peter Lucassen complained of pain during their matches.

“Staying healthy is the most important thing,” said senior Jaak Poldma. “We can’t have more players get hurt.”

The match against the Waves was by far the toughest this season for USC, and according to USC coach Peter Smith, a little wear and tear is to be expected.

“It’s all a part of it,” Smith said.

Injuries aside, the USC men’s tennis team rides a seven-match winning streak into Seattle this weekend, looking to defend its ITA National Team Indoor Championship title.

But the Trojans (7-0) will need all their players healthy if they hope to repeat as champions and extend their impressive start to the season.

To prepare for the tournament, Smith emphasized the importance of gaining momentum from the start and preparing for the specific style of indoor tennis.

“We’ve got to get quick points,” Smith said. “We need to work on coming in and facing guys. Indoor tennis is a lot faster than outdoor [because] you don’t have to deal with the elements.”

In last year’s competition, USC beat Yale 7-0 to take the crown, and junior Steve Johnson defeated the Bulldogs’ Marc Powers 7-6, 6-4 to claim the singles championship.

Junior Daniel Nguyen also had an impressive win at the No. 5 singles spot against Daniel Hoffman 6-2, 6-1 that would seal USC’s team victory.

So far this season, doubles play has been an undeniable sore spot, and the team knows that it must improve if it wants to continue its success.

“We need to focus on doubles,” Nguyen said. “We need to work on matches, drills, and work hard each day.”

Traveling to Seattle are: Johnson, Nguyen, Poldma, Sarmiento, freshman Emilio Gomez, sophomore J.T. Sundling and freshman Corey Smith. Lucassen will stay back in Los Angeles due to a foot injury.

Though USC is a favorite going into the tournament, it will not be easy to repeat. This will be a good test of endurance under extended play, especially for those among the roster who are younger and less experienced.

First up for USC is a match against No. 15 Duke today at 12 p.m.

In their matchup last March, the Blue Devils served the Trojans their second loss of the season. Besides Dylan Arnould, Duke is returning its entire roster that beat USC last season.