The No. 15 men’s tennis team has performed well this season, holding an overall record of 16-6 and a conference record of 4-2. The team has three players in the top 100 singles players in the country with No. 26 senior Daniel Cukierman, No. 28 redshirt senior Riley Smith and No. 87 sophomore Stefan Dostanic. Additionally, Cuckierman and Smith are the No. 2 doubles team in the nation.
The vast talent and depth of this squad have led the team to dominant wins against some of the best collegiate teams in the country, such as No. 7 TCU (4-0), No. 18 Oklahoma State (4-0) and No. 27 Arizona State (6-1).
However, there have been some hiccups along the way. The Trojans had close calls at the ITA Indoor Championships and tight matches against No. 20 Arizona, Pepperdine and most recently Stanford.
Now, the Trojans hope to finish the regular season on a high note with a chance to sweep their crosstown rivals, the UCLA Bruins.
USC has faced the Bruins twice already Their first matchup was in the championship match for the ITA Kickoff Weekend when the Trojans were the No. 1 team in the nation. Even though UCLA took an early lead by winning the doubles point, the Trojans came back and swept the Bruins in singles play, for a final score of 4-1.
During their second matchup, the final result ended up much closer, with USC earning a 4-3 win. USC won the doubles point but went down 3-1 in singles with some of USC’s top players like Cuckierman and Smith falling. However, USC rallied back to a win with freshman Lodewijk Weststrate winning 5-7, 6-4, 6-0 and then junior Jake Sands finishing the comeback when he went down one set and subsequently won the next two, 5-7, 7-5, 6-3.
Sands is looking forward to playing the Bruins one more time this regular season, but isn’t getting ahead of himself despite the Trojans’ record.
“We’re just kind of talking about the previous matches we played against them and studying them, just learning about our opponents,” Sands said. “But besides that, we are just going into it with a pretty motivated mindset even though we already beat them.”
Sands has had a consistent season so far, always showing up for the squad when they need him. Recently, the junior made things close in the 3-4 loss against Stanford last Saturday.
Despite his strong efforts so far this season, Sands still sees room for improvement moving into this final regular-season matchup and into the postseason.
“I just want to keep building on my game,” Sands said. “The goal is NCAAs, the post-season coming up. Whether we win or lose [against UCLA] … isn’t going to be everything, so we just need to learn from what’s coming up and just to prepare ourselves for NCAAs.”
Sands and the Trojans will finish the regular season this Friday at 3 p.m. at David X. Marks Tennis Stadium at USC.