USC looks to extend its hot start in doubleheader

The USC men’s tennis team has just begun what promises to be a long, demanding season, epitomized by only a two-day break in between matches this week. After a successful ITA Kick-Off Weekend tournament, the No. 2 Trojans immediately began preparing for a doubleheader against the No. 57 Cal Poly Mustangs and the UC Irvine Anteaters to be played today at Marks Stadium.

Aces wild · Junior Emilio Gomez, ranked No. 27 in the nation for singles play, will remain in the No. 1 spot in Sarmiento’s absence. - Chris Roman | Daily Trojan

Aces wild · Junior Emilio Gomez, ranked No. 27 in the nation for singles play, will remain in the No. 1 spot in Sarmiento’s absence. – Chris Roman | Daily Trojan

This weekend, USC defeated San Diego State, 4-0, to advance to the ITA Kick-Off Weekend championship, in which they defeated Fresno State, 4-0. As soon as the match was over, the Trojans had to put the weekend behind them and start thinking about their next match.

USC coach Peter Smith acknowledged the fast turnaround — the first of many — describing the team’s schedule as “a little intense this year,” given the high volume of games.

According to junior Emilio Gomez, the quick succession of matches is actually good for the team.

“We’re just trying to get our rhythm back,” Gomez said. “We actually want to get a lot of matches in, so we can really start improving our game.”

USC will open its doubleheader today against Cal Poly. The Mustangs (2-1) are led by first-year coach Nick Carless. Earlier in the season, they had success in a tournament at Fresno State, where they defeated Saint Mary’s, 5-2. In the next round, they upset Fresno State, 4-1. At the time, the Bulldogs were ranked No. 50 in the nation, while Cal Poly sat at No. 62. Leading the upset was senior Andre Dome, who is currently the No. 89 singles player in the country.

His singles and doubles victories in that match earned him the title of Big West Men’s Tennis Athlete of the Week.

Smith says Cal Poly’s upset of Fresno State hasn’t affected the team’s training or mindset leading up to their match.

“All of these matches, really, in my eyes, are a form of practice,” Smith said. “And that’s not to say disrespect to our opponents. Really, we’re all playing toward something bigger: conference championships [and] national championships.”

In the second match of the day, USC will take on the Anteaters of UC Irvine (0-3). After losing a match at home to Nevada 6-1, the Anteaters traveled to Honolulu to take on Hawai’i and Sacramento State. They fell to Hawai’i 5-2, and lost to Sacramento State the next day 6-1.

The Anteaters are led by junior Ryan Cheung, who was named to the All-Big West second team in doubles for the 2011-12 season. UCI coach Trevor Kronemann is in his sixth season with the team.

UCI is currently unranked and has no players ranked in either singles or doubles, but the team isn’t letting its guard down.

“It’s important not to overlook these teams,” junior Ray Sarmiento said. “The guys need to take care of their own matches and the rest will come.”

Sarmiento, USC’s highest-ranked singles player, will sit out the doubleheader today because of a slight abdominal injury but will be back in action against Texas on Friday.

USC kicks off its doubleheader today against Cal Poly at 12:30 p.m. The team then faces UCI at 4:30 p.m. Both matches are set to be played at Marks Stadium.