After nearly a month of postseason play, the men’s and women’s tennis teams finished off their seasons last Thursday and Friday. Although each team had their rough challenging matches, the 2018-19 season was an improvement from last year for both teams.
After finishing third in the Pac-12 during the 2017-2018 season, the men’s team improved to second place this season, just behind crosstown rival UCLA. The women’s team, which finished fourth to last in the Pac-12 last season, finished fourth this year in the Pac-12. Both teams also sent at least one player to the NCAA individual championships for singles and/or doubles.
The Men of Troy started off their postseason play in the NCAA team tournament as the eighth seed. After beating both Northern Arizona and San Diego without dropping a single point, the men’s team was eliminated in the round of 16 when they were defeated 1-4 by No. 9 North Carolina.
The men’s season did not end there, as they sent three singles players and one doubles team to the NCAA tournament. Junior Brandon Holt, sophomore Daniel Cukierman, and senior Tanner Smith competed in the singles tournament for the Trojans.
All three players advanced to the round of 32, but only Holt emerged victorious. In the round of 16, Holt overcame a first set loss, earning him a spot in the quarterfinals. Holt’s quarterfinal appearance was the first for the Trojans since 2012, when Stevie Johnson went on to win the NCAA title. Holt lost his quarterfinal match to No. 1 senior Nuno Borges of Mississippi State.
The Trojans’ doubles team consisted of Holt and junior Riley Smith, who came in as the No. 10 seed, but did not make it out of the first round, losing in a three-set match to No. 8 Texas A&M sophomores Carlos Aguilar and Barnaby Smith.
On the women’s side, USC entered the NCAA tournament as the No. 13 seed. Like the men’s team, the women advanced to the round of 16 without dropping a single point. The Trojans did not make it past this round, however, losing to the No. 4 South Carolina Gamecocks 0-4.
The women’s team sent one singles player and one doubles duo to the women’s NCAA tournament. Freshman Salma Ewing was the lone Trojan to compete in the singles tournament, falling in the first round against No. 19 Marta Gonzalez, a junior from Georgia, in a three-set match.
The doubles team, consisting of junior Angela Kulikov and senior Rianna Valdes, made it to the semifinals, the farthest for both the men’s and women’s team.
“It’s a huge accomplishment for the girls to be the third Trojan pair to reach the NCAA Semifinals,” said head coach Alison Swain.
The pair cruised to the semifinals in Orlando without dropping a single set in their first three matches.
“We’ve been playing our best doubles all week but still getting better with each match. It’s exciting to be putting on such great performances and still know we can do even better tomorrow,” Kulikov said.
The Trojans faced a familiar foe in the UCLA team of seniors Gabby Andrews and Ayan Broomfield in the semifinals. The Women of Troy were no match for their crosstown rivals, losing in consecutive sets, 4-6, 4-6.
Even though USC was not able to crown a national champion this season, both teams have a lot to be proud of. The men’s team finished their season with an overall record of 22-8, only dropping one conference match. The women’s team finished their season with a record of 20-8, only losing three conference matches. Both teams seek to improve their performance next season, hoping to add that elusive championship banner to Marks Stadium.