No. 2 USC Men Dig In For Saturday Doubleheader
Trojans start things up at Marks Stadium vs. Sacramento State and St. Mary's.
Jan. 19, 2011
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The No. 2 USC men have a full plate of opening action at home this weekend as the Trojans host a pair of teams for a Saturday douhbleheader at Marks Stadium. Coming to Troy for USC's first competition at home this year are Sacramento State and Saint Mary's. USC will open up against Sacramento State at 11 a.m., followed by a 3 p.m. start against Saint Mary's on Saturday (Jan. 22).
ITA RANKING UPDATES
The first round of 2011 Campbell/ITA national rankings were released January 4, with the back-to-back national champs starting the year ranked No. 2 in the nation. On the individual side, USC has five Trojans ranked in singles and two doubles teams in the mix. Steve Johnson leads the pack as the nation's #6 singles player. His fellow junior Daniel Nguyen isn't far behind, ranking #18 in singles ahead of three more Trojans: #84 Peter Lucassen, #91 Ray Sarmiento and #94 Jaak Poldma. In doubles, USC's ranked teams are #29 Johnson/Nguyen and #51 Poldma/Sundling.
SCOUTING SAC STATE
This will be the first dual-match action of the year for the Hornets, who posted a 17-12 overall record last season while winning its eighth conference title in the last 13 years. Sacramento State is led by the reigning two-time Big Sky MVP Kiryl Harbatsiuk, who is also currently ranked 16th in the nation. Jason Smith and Marko Starcevic also return after receiving all-league accolades last season. Smith was the team's No. 3 player in the singles lineup in 2010, and Starcevic played at No. 5. The Hornets welcome seven new players to the roster this year.
SCOUTING ST. MARY'S
The Gaels have their season-opening match against Sonoma State on Wednesday before heading to USC for Saturday's match. Last season, Saint Mary's went 6-17 overall and finished sixth in the WCC Championships. Senior Lucas Tirelli was the Gaels' all-WCC honoree last season, and SMC has added two new foreign players in Joakim Norstrom and Saad Benkirane.
STARTING AT SHERWOOD
USC gathered up some good wins in its 2011 kickoff at the Sherwood Collegiate Cup, with Steve Johnson reaching the singles title match while his Trojan teammates managed to sweep the consolation crowns. JT Sundling rebounded from an opening loss to work his way to the consolation singles title, while Daniel Nguyen and Peter Lucassen replicated that effort on the consolation doubles courts.
This year, half the USC ladder knows what it takes to win two NCAA Championships, and five players return from the 2010 title-winning team. Senior Jaak Poldma and juniors Steve Johnson and Daniel Nguyen each hold a pair of national championship rings. Senior Peter Lucassen and sophomore JT Sundling picked up their first last year, when USC finished as champs with a 25-3 overall record after taking second in the Pac-10 at 5-1. Altogether, it's a pool of experience that USC head coach and 2010 ITA National Coach of the Year Peter Smith is eager to dip into for a run at defending the Trojans' back-to-back titles.
2011 TROJANS TAKE SHAPE
As the nation's No. 6 ranked singles player, junior Steve Johnson is an easy fit back into the No. 1 singles position for the Trojans, with Jaak Poldma and Daniel Nguyen already proven winners and Peter Lucassen and JT Sundling also having gleaned plenty of winning experience after a year as Trojans. Added to the formula for this season are three new freshmen -- Michael Grant, Ray Sarmiento and Corey Smith. Grant and Sarmiento had strong fall seasons, with Sarmiento factoring in quickly as a doubles gun as well. Newcomer Emilio Gomez also enters the picture this season in coming to Troy from Ecuador this spring.
RANK AND FILE
The ITA national rankings already reflect a Trojan dominance in the 2011 picture. USC opens the spring ranked No. 2 in the nation as a team, just behind top-ranked Virginia. The Cavaliers were the top-seeded team in both the 2009 and 2010 NCAA tournaments, and USC served up an upset win over UVA both years en route to claiming its consecutive crowns. Individually, five Trojans are ranked in the ITA top-100 on the singles sheet.
FALL'S DOUBLE DOMINATION
Captain Jaak Poldma is the resident veteran of the team as he enters his fourth season as a Trojan ranked No. 94 on the singles scene. He had an extremely successful fall season in winning the Southern California Intercollegiate singles title as well as the doubles crown alongside teammate JT Sundling. Sundling and Poldma rank No. 51 as a doubles pair, following up the No. 29 team of Steve Johnson and Daniel Nguyen.