Men’s tennis looks to bounce back at home

The Pacific Northwest hasn’t been kind to the USC men’s tennis team as of late.

Last weekend, the No. 9 Trojans (8-2) traveled to Seattle to partake in the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, yet they were edged out by No. 17 Duke and then-No. 7 Stanford by 4-3 scores — marking the team’s first losses of the year and first back-to-back defeats since 2008.

Big lift · The Trojans will rely heavily on freshman Ray Sarmiento over the weekend, as he fills in for an injured senior Peter Lucassen. - Mannat Saini | Daily Trojan

But with a weekend slate consisting of home games against No. 20 California (4-3) and No. 8 Stanford (8-2), USC looks to get back on track and regain its lost momentum.

First up for the Trojans is a matchup today with the Golden Bears, a team they have not yet faced this season, before facing the same Stanford team that narrowly defeated them a week ago.

Nearing the midway point in the season, it remains imperative that USC show its depth, as senior Peter Lucassen, will be forced to miss action over the weekend while nursing a stress fracture in his foot. In his place, freshman Ray Sarmiento, who had to forfeit during last weekend’s tournament due to wrist pain, is expected to play.

Although the Trojans fell short last weekend, they did show improvements in the doubles department, which is something they have struggled with all season long. Getting this early edge is something USC coach Peter Smith has been emphasizing in practice all week.

“Winning the doubles and then translating that to singles is important,” Smith said. “[We need to] get off to good starts.”

The team walked away with other positives from its tournament and past matches and look to bounce back and move forward.

“The competitiveness is set on the team,” Smith said. “We’re in midseason form and we know what it takes to compete. And I think the freshman knows what it’s like. We’re having a better understanding of the team.”

Cal is coming off of a 7-0 win against UC Santa Barbara last week, while boasting three nationally ranked players in No. 41 Pedro Zerbini, No. 82 Carlos Cueto and No. 95 Christoffer Konigsfeldt. But despite their prowess, the Trojans hold a 128-33 all-time advantage on the Bears, walking away with a 6-1 victory against them last season.

Saturday afternoon’s match, however, will be more personal, as the Trojans look to reinstate their dominance against a Stanford team that caused their early departure from the ITA National Indoor Championships on Feb. 19. Like Cal, the Cardinal also has three nationally ranked singles players in No. 7 Bradley Klahn, No. 52 Ryan Thacher and No. 64 Alex Clayton. As a result, all are very capable.

“[We need to] capitalize on our leads and not give up service breaks when we have a lead,” Smith said. “We have to consolidate those leads and turn them into to wins. That’s what we weren’t able to do against Stanford the first time.”