Women’s tennis successful in early-season tournaments

Senior Salma Ewing swings at the ball with her tennis racket in her right hand.
The Trojans will travel to North Carolina for their upcoming tournament. (Andrew Kerner | Daily Trojan)

Women’s tennis opened its season by competing in two tournaments. At the California Tennis Club in San Francisco, in the Battle in the Bay Classic, the Trojans faced players from fellow Pac-12 contestants Colorado as well as many of last season’s top-ranked teams, such as Pepperdine and Georgia. 

The four Trojans who played in the Milwaukee Classic faced stiff competition, namely from blue-chip programs like Wisconsin and Ole Miss.

Four athletes entered the season with an individual ITA national ranking. Senior Salma Ewing headlines the group, with a team-high No. 18 overall national rank. Junior Eryn Cayetano follows Ewing at No. 56, while sophomore Naomi Cheong and senior Danielle Willson round out the group at No. 81 and No. 118, respectively. 

Freshman Leyden Games headlined the weekend’s results, after winning the singles consolation bracket final at the Battle of the Bay, beating Pepperdine sophomore Nikki Redelijk 7-6, 5-7, 11-9 in the final. In her route to the final, Games put up a fight against Morgan Coppoc of Georgia, the No. 66 player nationally. Games took Coppoc to two sets and a tiebreaker in the main draw after a hard fought 7-5 win in the second set. Games did not sacrifice a set in her first two matches in the consolation bracket, beating San Francisco’s sophomore Caragh Courtney and freshman Simran Chhabra. Georgia’s freshman Guillermina Grant took the first set off Games in their semifinal meeting, but, ultimately, Games won 6-1 in the second set and 10-2 in the tiebreaker. 

“[I’m] just so happy to be finally representing the school,” Games said. “Wearing the colors was super cool … In that moment I was just thinking about the moment and focusing on my breathing and taking it one step at a time.”

Making their USC debuts, redshirt freshman Isabelle Lee and redshirt freshman Snow Han also competed in the singles main draw in San Francisco. Lee advanced to Round of 16, defeating Wisconsin senior Antonela Stoica 6-1, 6-1 before dropping into the singles consolation bracket after a loss against Pepperdine’s Lisa Zaar, a junior ranked No. 53 in the nation. Han and Lee also suffered a first round defeat as doubles partners to sophomores Arianna Capogrosso and Rita Coyler from San Francisco.

Sophomore Naomi Cheong and junior Eryn Cayetano — the No. 7 and No. 5 seeds, respectively — both earned semifinal berths for USC in Milwaukee. In her path to the semis, Cheong took down the women’s singles top seed senior Sabina Machalova from Ole Miss, securing the victory in straight sets 7-6, 6-4. Cayetano did not drop a set through three matches before falling to North Carolina’s Reilly Tran. Sophomores Tran and Fiona Crawley were set to face each other in the final, but the match was postponed after they both fell ill. 

Two freshmen also traveled to Milwaukee for the tournament. After a first round loss to Tran in the main draw, freshman Grace Piper rebounded in the consolation draw, winning two matches, including an impressive 6-3, 6-2 display against Indiana sophomore Laura Masic. Redshirt freshman Gabrielle Lee did not enjoy the same recovery in the consolation bracket, falling to Navy senior Kacey Moore in the Round of 16. 

On the doubles side, Cayetano and Piper won one match against junior Xinyu Cai and senior Ava Markham from Wisconsin but lost in the second round to Crawley and Tran Cheong. 

“Everyone was cheering everyone on,” Games said. “Everyone will update everyone on how [their teammates] did … We’re all very supportive of each other.”