Tennis carries high hopes into 2019 season

Senior Brandon Holt made the quarterfinals in last year’s individual tournament and hopes to reach even greater heights this season. (Daily Trojan file photo)

The USC men’s and women’s tennis teams both had impressive 2018 seasons and will look to build on that success in their upcoming campaigns. 

Under the guidance of former head coach Peter Smith, the men’s team compiled a 22-8 record and a No. 8 national ranking. The team reached the NCAA Super Regionals, losing to North Carolina. 

Following Smith’s resignation this summer, new head coach Brett Masi hopes to keep the program headed in the right direction. Masi has an impressive background, winning Big 12 and West Coast Coach of the Year awards during his time at Texas Tech and San Diego University, respectively. He will look to translate this success to USC. 

“The expectations at USC are always that we want to win national titles,” Masi said. “I don’t think that’s going to change. The team has that as a goal … Just because I’m a new head coach — that won’t change.”

While Masi understands the team’s lofty aspirations, he knows it can’t win a championship overnight and wants his players to focus on improving throughout the fall.

“It’s about a process of just building confidence and belief in ourselves, and the results will come from that,” Masi said. “If we have success in terms of wins, trophies and things like that, that’s great, that’s always the ultimate goal. But I want us to see our guys go out there and play well.”

As the son of a basketball coach, Masi values team chemistry and strives to create a tight-knit group of players that represent the University’s commitment to excellence. 

“I’m a big team guy, even in an individual sport like tennis,” Masi said. “I really want our team to be close and cohesive.”

Senior Brandon Holt showed off his talent last season as the ninth best singles player in the collegiate level, reaching the quarterfinals in the 2019 NCAA Individual Championships. Holt and his partner, senior Riley Smith, ranked as the 14th best doubles pair last season. As he heads into his final year as a Trojan, Holt hopes to build upon his past accomplishments. 

The team has plenty of newcomers this year with freshmen Stefan Dostanic, Ryder Jackson, Colter Smith and redshirt freshman Rae Lan. USC will start its first tournaments Thursday in the Milwaukee Tennis Classic and the Battle in the Bay in San Francisco. 

The women’s team had similar success last season with a 20-8 record, ranking No. 16 in the nation. The Trojans were knocked out of the NCAA tournament in the Round of 16 against the South Carolina Gamecocks. 

Head coach Alison Swain hopes to lead the team to the same level of success that she did previously at Williams College, where she brought the Ephs eight NCAA Division III Championships. 

The 2019-20 season marks the final year for seniors Constance Branstine, Angela Kulikov, Sydney Van Alphen and Becca Weissmann, who hope to finish their college careers on a winning note. 

The team brought in new recruits freshmen Carson Branstine, Eryn Cayetano and Payton Saca, who will round out a group that looks poised to make a deep run at a national title. 

Like the men’s team, the women will begin its season at the Milwaukee Tennis Classic and the Battle in the Bay. In last year’s Battle in the Bay tournament, the Trojans showed their dominance by winning both the singles and doubles divisions. The team is hoping for a repeat of these titles in this year’s competition. 

Both teams bring in high expectations for the upcoming tournaments and the season as a whole. Both squads value player development and wins on the court and are ready to build on an impressive 2018 season to establish USC as one of the nation’s premier tennis schools.