Men’s tennis falls to Ohio State in NCAA Championship

Before losing to Ohio State, the Trojans won their third straight Pac-12 title. The conference title is their sixth in school history and earned them an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. (Andrew Kerner | Daily Trojan file photo)

No. 13 men’s tennis competed in a hard-fought battle against No. 4 Ohio State in the Super Regionals of the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship in Columbus on Saturday but ultimately fell to the Buckeyes 2-4. 

Following a 4-0 sweep against Nevada in the first round and a 4-1 victory over No. 17 San Diego in the second round at Marks Stadium in Los Angeles, the Trojans advanced to the NCAA Round of 16 for the 15th straight time. The loss to Ohio State snapped a 12-match winning streak for the Trojans. They finished the season with a record of 23-6.

Head Coach Brett Masi said the team came a long way this season and expressed his pride in his players. 

“I thought we were a very lethal team,” said Masi in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “They were playing their best tennis come April … We fought hard, but we just came up short.”

USC won its third-straight Pac-12 Tournament title at Libbey Park in Ojai, Calif. which gained it an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. It defeated No. 53 California, No. 18 Stanford and No. 40 Washington to clinch its sixth overall trophy at the conference tournament. Stanford and Washington also made the NCAA tournament but lost in the Round of 16 and first round, respectively.

“It definitely feels good to feel like we’re making our mark in the Pac-12 and saying that the road has to go through us,” Masi said. In the match against the Buckeyes, the Trojans fell in doubles for the first time in eight matches. No. 7 ranked junior Stefan Dostanic and senior Bradley Frye opened with a 5-0 start against Buckeyes’ No. 2 ranked pair graduate student Matej Vocel and junior Robert Cash in doubles competition. When USC fell to Ohio State 1-6 on courts two and three, play was suspended on court one, and the Buckeyes took the first point of the match. 

“[Frye and Dostanic] are our captains,” Masi said. “[Dostanic’s] relentless … He wants to see everyone be successful and work hard … [Frye] can come and work hard and improve and get to a place where he’s playing number two in the lineup on a top 10 team. It’s just very impressive to see.” 

The Trojans came out strong for singles play, winning the first sets on four courts, but the Buckeyes bounced back to reclaim second sets on three of those four courts. On court six, Ohio State junior Justin Boulais took down USC junior Ryder Jackson 6-4, 6-1. On court five, however, USC sophomore No. 121 Lodewijk Weststrate defeated Buckeye senior James Trotter 6-0, 6-4 to make the match 2-1 in favor of Ohio State.

No. 7 Dostanic’s 19-match win streak came to an end in a three-set battle against Ohio State junior No. 9 Cannon Kingsley. Kingsley came back for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win giving the Buckeyes a 3-1 advantage over the Trojans. No. 105 Frye came back to extend the match against No. 13 Vocel winning 5-7, 6-4, 6-2. The match point came on court four. Ohio State graduate No. 122 Jake Van Emburgh took down USC freshman Ryan Colby 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. 

“I think it’s really exciting, and it’s a good experience for everyone on our team,” said Frye when asked about the environment in Columbus. “That made us look forward to next year. To see how we finished off with the group that we had, three freshman, I think it’s really special.”

Masi said he thought this match was a great environment for the young team to experience a quality opponent and the atmosphere around it.

Next season, the Trojans are “going to play a lot tougher schedule than we did this year,” Masi said. “If we can win some of those [matches], we’re going to put ourselves in that top eight and give ourselves a great seeding. I’m looking forward to that road for us for sure.”  

Although USC has finished the NCAA team competition, the season is not over yet. Dostanic, Makk and Frye will compete in NCAA Individual play next week. Dostanic and Makk qualified for the NCAA Singles draw, and Dostanic and Frye will compete in the NCAA Doubles. They compete May 23-28 in Champaign, Ill.