The USC men’s tennis team proved they were only human this weekend, as they came home with consecutive losses since 2008.
Making the trip to Seattle for the ITA National Indoors Championship was a slightly makeshift lineup, as senior Peter Lucassen stayed back due to injury, and was replaced by sophomore Corey Smith.
Even during the weekend’s matches, the Trojans (8-2) couldn’t manage to leave with all their players healthy.
Freshman Ray Sarmiento had to pull out against Duke’s Fred Saba after being down 6-4, 4-2, because of injury.
“He’s had a bad shoulder and he hasn’t really taken proper care of it,” said USC coach Peter Smith. “It spread to his elbow and wrist, and right now it’s his wrist, so he’s playing catch up. He’s got to get better.”
Despite not being at full strength and walking away empty-handed at the tournament, the coaching staff is confident the team will be fine once everybody is healthy.
“We proved that we are missing one-third of our starting lineup, and we were one point away from being in the semifinals of the tournament — to me, that’s a great sign for the team,” Smith said. “Duke was in the semifinals, and so you have to think that when we get our team right, we’ll be right there.”
In its first matchup, No. 2 USC got edged by No. 15 Duke 4-3, and the Blue Devils proved to once again be a thorn in the team’s backside.
With Sarmiento out, the doubles lineup shifted to junior Daniel Nguyen and freshman Emilio Gomez at the No. 1 spot, sophomore J.T. Sundling and senior Jaak Poldma at No. 2 and junior Steve Johnson and freshman Michael Grant at No. 3.
The second day didn’t prove to be any easier as USC lost 4-3 — this time, it was to a fellow Pac-10 team in No. 7 Stanford.
Still, USC bounced back to win decisively, 4-0 against No. 12 Louisville in its last match.
“We fought hard against Duke and Stanford, and it’s early in the season but it’s kind of a good test to see how we can do,” Johnson said. “After losing twice 4-3, to come back the third day, show some resiliency, come back and win decisively is big.”
Losing isn’t something the Trojans are used to, but it is something that the team can grow from.
“I don’t like to lose,” Smith said. “[But] if losing is progressing, then that’s okay. We’re better off having played these matches, win or lose.”
Doubles play was looking stronger for USC this weekend, as the team won two of three of its matches against Duke and Stanford, and went on to sweep Louisville.
“[Poldma] and [Sundling] really had a great weekend,” Smith said. “They played really well and you’ve got to make do when you have fewer people.”
The Trojans come home for the week to host Cal and Stanford on Friday and Saturday at Marks Stadium.
“We knew this was going to be a tough tournament playing the top 16 teams,” Johnson said. “[It’ll] be good to play a new team, get ready and have a big rematch against Stanford. [We] definitely don’t want to lose to them again, especially on our home courts, so we’ll come out and be ready to play.”