USC men’s tennis came up short in their bout to beat Stanford Saturday.
A win would have extended their season record over the Cardinal to 2-0 heading into Pac-12 Championship play. Instead, a frantic set of tiebreaks and runaway points led to their demise and an even book at 1-1.
The Trojans came into this match off a three game win streak and a previous victory over Stanford just three weeks ago with their top players heading the lineup.
Early on, things looked like they were working. Redshirt senior’s Riley Smith and Daniel Cukierman — the No. 2 doubles pair in the country — swept Stanford’s pair of sophomore Neel Rajesh and senior Axel Geller in a 6-1 set. The Cardinal couldn’t keep pace with the returns, especially those coming off of Smith’s racquet, which led them to a sole hold of serve.
Smith and Cukierman’s win was echoed by a more drawn-out 7-5 victory from sophomore Stefan Dostanic and junior Bradley Frye. The duo, putting away the set, clinched the doubles point for the Trojans — a crucial advantage in college tennis.
“Bradley and Stef have done a great job as well, and they hung in there and won good points at the right moment and had a solid overall effort,” head coach Brett Masi said. “Solid doubles playing.”
A fierce start and a point ahead, USC needed three singles wins to walk away as victor. They came up with only two.
All but one match went into three sets, the lone two setter was a 6-4, 6-4 loss endured by Fyre, who had just assisted in clinching the doubles point.
Beyond Fyre, Stanford came out swinging in singles. When USC had last faced the Cardinal in a 7-0 Trojan victory March 23, Stanford had only three matches under their belt while the Trojans competed with match play experience through January.
Stanford’s late start led them on a six-game winning streak, continued by their 4-3 victory over the Trojans.
While USC’s loss is a tough blow to their chance at a good seed come championship play, Stanford’s road to victory was filled with an onslaught of tiebreaks and mental challenges.
Smith and Cuickerman were unable to hold off the Cardinal, both falling in the third set to Stanford’s ability to win the most crucial points.
The clinching match for Stanford was a 6-7 (4), 7-6 (7), 7-5 defeat over USC freshman Lodewijk Westsrate by Stanford senior Timothy Sah. The senior also captured the last needed victory for the Cardinal in their 4-3 win over UCLA a day prior.
The USC freshman led the match early on 7-6, 5-0. Weststrate’s game went up in smoke as Sah barreled back in the second set where he leveled the match at one set all after securing the tie break 9-7.
Sah’s fight didn’t end with the second set. Weststrate was once again within a game of victory, leading the third 5-3. But, the Stanford senior went on a four-game win streak to close it out at 7-5.
“I’m feeling like a truck hit me,” Masi said. “It was a tough loss for the guys. We’re winning a lot of matches and we didn’t close the door and finish the job today.”
USC has a quick turnaround for their final match of regular season play — a meeting with rival UCLA. The Trojans have already edged out two victories against the Bruins, looking for a third this coming Friday at David X. Marks Tennis Stadium at 3 p.m.