Men’s tennis shrugs off slow start to take both matches

Junior Riley Smith won both of his matches against San Francisco, contributing to the Trojans’ routine sweep of the Dons. (Emily Smith/Daily Trojan)

The USC men’s tennis team’s strong start to the season continued last Friday as it dropped just one point in a double header against UC Davis and the University of San Francisco.

The early matches saw the Trojans take on a UC Davis team that entered the day undefeated. Despite the Aggies’ previous success, the new pairing of freshman Mor Bulis and senior Jack Jaede dominated in doubles for a 6-1 victory. Junior Brandon Holt and senior Logan Smith, however, dropped their set 4-6. Freshman Jake Sands and redshirt junior Jake DeVine played the deciding set, leading the Aggies 5-2 before falling 6-7 (4) in the tiebreaker.

Down a point going into singles, the Trojans quickly turned things around. It started with DeVine, who served up a bagel in a 6-0, 6-4 victory. Holt quickly followed suit with a pair of breadsticks in his 6-1, 6-1 victory. Jaede and Smith both piled up wins at 6-4, 6-2 and 6-0, 7-5, respectively, to give the Trojans a comeback win. Sophomore Daniel Cuckierman provided the fifth point with a 6-3, 6-3 win and Bulis clinched the sixth point with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 win to close out the morning matchup.

Redshirt senior Tanner Smith made his season debut against USF, as he paired up with Cuckierman in doubles to win 6-3. Jaede and Sands won their set 6-4. Junior Riley Smith and Bulis had the same score of 6-4 and the Trojans took the doubles point.

Singles action saw Riley Smith dominate his match with a 6-0, 6-3 victory to put USC up 2-0. DeVine soon followed with a 6-2, 6-2 win of his own. After shaking off some early rust in his match, Tanner Smith clinched the fourth point for the Trojans with a 6-4, 6-4 victory. After the coaches agreed that the matches in progress all be played out, freshman Bradley Frye was the next Trojan to win with a score of 6-3, 6-3.

After dominating the first set, Cuckierman was able to tough out a tight second set to get a 6-0, 7-6 (2) victory. Sands closed out the day with a 6-4, 6-4 win and secured USC’s shutout of USF.

After dropping the early doubles point, USC was able to buckle down and roll right through the two teams, doing so with heavily rotated lineups due to the double header. Despite the hot start, the Trojans are not letting their 5-0 record get to their heads.

“I’m very happy with the way this season has started, [it’s] off to a very good start,” Sands said. “But we have a long ways to go and I look forward to what is to come.”

Bulis mentioned that the team has high expectations to meet this year.

“I think the expectation is to go to the end, to win the NCAA title,” he said. “We want to go all the way, we definitely have the potential to, but we just need to stay focused. We’ve realized it is going to be a long season and we’ve just got to take it one match at a time.”

After what could be considered a disappointing 2017-18 season where they lost in the finals of the Pac-12 tournament and the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament, the Trojans are looking to improve their game. So far, the early returns on this season look promising, but the first real test comes this weekend when USC takes on rivals Stanford and Cal.