No. 3 men’s tennis heads to Pac-10 championships

The No. 3 USC men’s tennis team traveled to Ojai, Calif. on Wednesday, to play in the Pac-10 championships, which begins today and continues through the weekend.

Last year the Trojans (21-2, 6-0) fell to rival UCLA in the later rounds of the tournament, but in 2011, after finishing undefeated in Pac-10 play, they hope to make a comeback and claim the postseason title.

Coming off of a close 4-3 win over the Bruins, USC appears ready to finish strong this weekend and have emphasized fundamentals in recent weeks.

“We’ve been doing a lot of fitness and just the basics,” said junior Daniel Nguyen. “The same things we’ve done for the past few months.”

The Trojans have battled injury throughout the season, but were able to finish strong with a full lineup with the NCAAs on the horizon.

“We have to stay healthy and improve on our game daily,” Nguyen said. “We have to push ourselves.”

Freshman Ray Sarmiento will likely pair back with junior Steve Johnson in the A doubles draw. The two are currently ranked at No. 34 in the nation, and a strong showing in Ojai could place them in the mix for a national championship. Both Nguyen and Gomez might also return as a pair for the tournament.

All eight players that played in the regular season will travel to the tournament, split between the A and B draw. Freshman Michael Grant, who would enter the B draw, sprained his ankle in practice Tuesday and will be a game-time decision.

As back-to-back national champions, USC is focused on the task at hand, but ultimately has its eyes on winning it all for the third year in a row.

Nguyen credits last year’s Pac-10 championships with serving as a good precursor for the NCAA tournament, which awaits.

“You can find your game at these tournaments,” Nguyen said. “Last year I did well and that [momentum] spilled over into the NCAAs.”