The sun was a welcome sight on Saturday morning as the No. 1 USC men’s tennis team (2-0, 0-0) embarked on its dual-match season with two victories against Loyola Marymount (0-1, 0-0) and UC Santa Barbara (1-2, 0-0).
The week’s turbulent weather affected the action, as the first match against LMU was delayed 1 hour 27 minutes to allow the Marks Tennis Stadium courts to dry up.
The delay did not hurt the Trojans, however, as they dominated the Lions 7-0.
Doubles play was competitive as the No. 13 duo of senior Robert Farah and sophomore Steve Johnson held off the No. 60 team of junior Ivan Lopez and sophomore Otto Sauer 8-6 to secure the doubles point for the Trojans.
In the singles portion, USC demonstrated their depth and skill with commanding performances across the board. At the second singles slot, No. 116 junior Jaak Poldma highlighted the strong play with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over No. 87 Lopez. Poldma displayed a powerful forehand that Lopez could not handle the entire match.
Also featured in singles were victories by No. 14 ranked Farah (6-2, 6-1) over Sauer, No. 47 sophomore Matt Kecki (6-3, 6-1) over senior Renzo Maggi and freshman Joel Giger (6-2, 6-3) over freshman Zeke Hindle.
The second match was not as easy going, as the Trojans held off the Gauchos 4-3. USC swept the doubles portion, highlighted by the exciting comeback victory of junior Peter Lucassen and Poldma, who defeated freshmen Benjamin Recknagel and Lucas Sudow 9-8 (3). The USC duo was down 4-7 but stormed back to secure the sweep in doubles.
The top three singles players carried the Trojans, as they faced some adversity from UCSB. In the decisive match, No. 1 ranked Johnson was in command of the match, then had his serve broken by junior Alex Koningsfeldt to tie up the second set 4-4. Johnson responded by taking three of the next four games to seal the 6-3, 7-5 victory.
At the end of the long day, the injury bug hit junior Daniel Gliner as he fought through a tough loss to Recknagel 6-1, 4-6, 1-0 (10-5). Gliner was in the midst of a comeback when he suffered cramps in the middle of the second set. In the end, he could not overcome the injury during the tiebreak.
The day started off well for the Trojans but ended on a bit of an underwhelming note.
“We didn‘t play to our full potential, but you have to give credit to UCSB. They played really well,” USC coach Peter Smith explained.
Even with some disappointment, there were plenty of brilliant performances. Lucassen stood out to coaches as he excelled during his first taste of collegiate tennis.
“Most impressively, Peter Lucassen went 4-0 for the day,“ Smith said.
Sophomore Daniel Nguyen also played notably by sweeping the two doubles and one singles match he participated in.
“The experienced players really came through today,” Smith noted.
The veterans might have won the day, but equally importantwas allowing all of the players to compete.
All players were able to participate in at least one match because of the doubleheader format.
“It was important to let everyone know the pressure on court,” Smith said.
Some questions, especially about the lineup, remain unanswered, but Smith will continue to mix in different combinations to find the right fit.
For the Trojans, the outcome of the day’s matches held mixed results, but Smith and the team come away with added experience, as the doubleheader allowed USC to play more oppoents than they could have scheduled otherwise.