USC Men Go For Three In A Row As No. 2 Seed
May 3, 2011
The back-to-back NCAA champs open defense of their title with a pair of home matches next week, as the USC men's tennis team secured the No. 2 seed and homecourt advantage for the first two rounds of the 2011 NCAA Team Championships. The host Trojans (21-2) kick off the postseason with a first-round matchup against Sacramento State (14-13) at 2 p.m. on Friday (May 13) while BYU (21-5) and San Diego (18-6) do battle in the other first-round match at 11 a.m. at Marks Stadium that day. The winners square off at 1 p.m. on Saturday (May 14) in the NCAA Second Round. Two wins at Marks Stadium would put the Trojans on a path toward a third straight NCAA crown, with the NCAA Round of 16 and beyond taking place in Palo Alto, Calif., starting on May 19.
This year's NCAA appearance is the Trojans' fifth straight trip to the postseason and 33rd overall. With NCAA titles in 2010 in Athens, Ga., and in 2009 in College Station, Texas, the Trojans lead the nation with 18 national championships all-time. USC's overall NCAA tournament record is 74-29. In the past two seasons, USC has upset the top-seeded teams en route to winning the title. With a No. 2 seed this season, the Trojans wouldn't get a shot at the top seed until the title match, which is scheduled for May 24.
With a 21-2 overall record on the way into the 2011 NCAA Championships, the Trojans already have their fifth straight 20-win season in the books, but USC is on the prowl for more. USC's runs to the 2009 and 2010 national championships began with the Trojans holding No. 8 and No. 5 seeds, respectively. This year, the two-time defending champs are an even brighter beacon on the radar as the No. 2 Trojans take aim at claiming a third consecutive NCAA crown. The pieces of the puzzle are certainly in place. The Trojans carry a 14-match win streak into the postseason this year -- the first time since 2002 that USC will enter the NCAA Tournament with a win in their final regular-season dual match. As a reminder, USC did, in fact, go on to win the 2002 NCAA Team Championship. That streak includes an undefeated finish in Pac-10 competition to wrap up the outright conference crown for the Trojans -- the first perfect Pac-10 finish for USC since 1987.
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. Altogether, it's a pool of experience that USC head coach and 2010 ITA National Coach of the Year Peter Smith believes can make a real run at defending the Trojans' back-to-back titles. Ranked No. 1 in the nation, Steve Johnson just recently added the 2011 Pac-10 Singles Championship to his laundry list of titles, then became the third Trojan in the past four years to sweep the Pac-10 titles with his run to the Pac-10 Doubles Championship with freshman teammate Ray Sarmiento. Johnson and Sarmiento are two of four Trojans ranked in the nation for singles, and one of three USC pairs on the national doubles list. No. 1 Johnson is joined by No. 38 Jaak Poldma, No. 44 Daniel Nguyen and No. 47 Sarmiento in the singles standings. Poldma and JT Sundling lead the doubles packs at No. 22, with Johnson/Sarmiento at No. 25 and Johnson and Nguyen paired up at No. 80.
In 2010, USC's run to a second straight NCAA championship also began at home. The Trojans beat Marist 4-0 and Fresno State 4-1 to punch their ticket to Athens, Ga. There, USC shut out No. 12 seed Kentucky and No. 4 seed Ohio State -- which the Trojans had beaten in the 2009 NCAA final -- and moved on to face No. 1 seed Virginia in the semifinals. That was another rematch for the Trojans, who had upset the top-seeded Cavaliers in the 2009 NCAA quarterfinals. The 2010 semifinal matchup with Virginia was a tight one, but USC prevailed 4-2 to step into the title match. There, USC went up against No. 2 seed Tennessee and fought back from losing the doubles point to win the match on a clinching victory from Daniel Nguyen to claim the 2010 NCAA crown. Virginia, once again, is the top seed in the NCAA Tournament field for 2011.
The seedings and brackets for the 2011 NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships are the next postseason pool to be revealed. Those selections will be released tomorrow (May 4) on ncaa.com. NCAA individual action will take place after the conclusion of the NCAA Team Championships in Palo Alto, Calif. Men's team play will run May 19-24, with singles running May 25-30 and doubles going May 26-30 -- all at Stanford's Taube Tennis Center.