The USC men’s tennis team continued its recent success in the ITA Weekend Kickoff Tournament last weekend. After returning from a trip to Australia, the No. 5 Trojans defeated Cal Poly Saturday and defeated UC Santa Barbara in the final on Sunday.
USC went up against Cal Poly in the first round and swept them 4-0. All three Trojan pairings started off slow in doubles, with sophomore Daniel Cuckierman and freshman Bradley Frye losing their match 4-6. Juniors Brandon Holt and Riley Smith were able to overcome their slow start, however, and came up with a 6-4 victory. The deciding doubles match came down to the wire, but seniors Laurens Verboven and Jack Jaede were able to clinch the set with a 7-5 win.
The singles matches were much more straightforward, as the Trojans got three straight set wins from Holt (6-4, 6-0), Smith (6-3, 6-2) and Cuckierman (6-1, 7-5). This completed the sweep and secured USC’s place in the championship match on Sunday against the Gauchos.
The doubles on Sunday against Santa Barbara proved to be much easier for the Trojans. Holt and Smith dominated with a 6-1 victory, which Cuckierman and Frye followed up with a straightforward 6-2 win. With the doubles point easily secured, the match turned to singles.
Smith secured a quick victory once again in singles with a 6-2, 6-2 win. Similarly, freshman Mor Bulis won 6-3, 6-2 in his match. Santa Barbara was able to get 1 point back, as Verboven lost 6-2, 6-3. After Holt and Cuckierman split sets in their matches, all of the attention turned to freshman Jake Sands to clinch USC’s win. Sands stood strong under the pressure and pulled out a gritty 6-4, 6-4 win to give USC the tournament.
Holt and Cuckierman both played out their matches and in the end, Holt won his match 7-6, 4-6, 6-4. Cuckierman was the last to finish with a hard fought 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 win. At the end of the day, USC won both of its matches over the weekend and qualified for its 11th consecutive ITA National Indoor Championship, which will be held in Chicago on Feb 15.
“As a team, we were all just ready to go, and we are excited for this year,” Smith said. “I think we are going to compete our butts off. I think we really have a chance to just do something special this year. Tournament is nothing different to us, and we are just going to go out there and compete.”
The good news continues to come in for the Trojans. It was announced Tuesday that Holt won Pac-12 Player of the Week honors following his undefeated record this past weekend. Women’s tennis junior Angela Kulikov also won the same honor this week, marking the first time since 2015 that USC tennis has had a men’s and women’s player take Player of the Week honors in the same week.
The Trojans continue at home tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. with a double header against UC Davis and the University of San Francisco. In the opening match, USC will look to overwhelm a young UC Davis team that has only one upperclassman. It will, however, be a tricky matchup, as the young Aggies have a 6-0 record heading into tomorrow’s matches. USF comes in with an undefeated record as well, although they have only played one match. USC will look to best its result against the Dons last year, when USC won 5-2.