Trojans head to Westlake to begin year

first_imgThe No. 2 USC men’s tennis team begins its first tournamentof the season today at the Sherwood Collegiate Cup in Westlake, Calif. The tournament will run through the weekend, and much like last year, the Trojans enter the season hoping to defend their back-to-back NCAA titles.Heavy shoulders · USC will lean on the leadership and experience of junior Steve Johnson, who ranks as the nation’s No. 6 singles player and is presently ranked as the tournament’s top seed. – Daily Trojan file photo The tournament remains a good opportunity for the team to show their competition what they have been preparing for in the offseason, but it will also serve as an early testament to their level of preparedness for the remaining slate.“Personally the most difficult part of this match is the pressure to start the season strong,” junior Daniel Nguyen said. “The tournament will be tough because for most of us this will be our first few matches of the season.”The importance of starting strong is perhaps of particular importance, given the high standards the team has set for itself through the success of the past few seasons.“I think coming back from winter break strong and making a statement by doing well and having one of our players win will be the most difficult and most important,” freshman Michael Grant said.USC is returning five players from its 2010 national championship team in seniors Jaak Poldma and Peter Lucassen, juniors Daniel Nguyen and Steve Johnson and sophomore JT Sundling.These veterans will have help from a cast of players, including freshmen Michael Grant and Ray Sarmiento, both of whom had strong fall seasons.USC also recently signed freshman Emilio Gomez from Ecuador to add depth to the team.“We’ve been lucky to have the depth necessary to go far, and it looks like we have it again this year,” USC coach Peter Smith said. “When we get to that point in the season where we’re playing really big matches, we have some experience on our side and we really hope to use that. The last thing we can do is try to maintain what we did.“We don’t just want to maintain; we’ve got to get better and better and better and keep proving ourselves. Our competition is out there trying to get better and we need to match that passion.”The path to victory will be a tough one, and it all begins Friday.“Every year, every team wants to win it all,” Smith said. “We’ve been pretty fortunate the last two years to do it. It’s definitely our goal again, and we’ll go for it with every ounce of our beings.”last_img

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