Trojans Tennis duo falls short at NCAA Individuals
It was a historic run for USC women’s tennis, but freshman Maddy Sieg (singles and doubles) and senior Eryn Cayetano (doubles) came up just short, falling in the semifinals at the NCAA Individual Doubles Championships Friday.
Earlier that day, Sieg also competed in the singles championships, losing in the semifinals. Sieg dropped her singles match to a familiar face in UCLA freshman Fangran Tian 6-3, 6-2. Tian ended up winning the singles championship and became the second freshman in three years to take home the title.
“[Tian] was very solid, and she knows how to work the point and find the weakness of the other player,” Sieg said. “Credits to her; she’s a great competitor and plays very, very well. Hopefully, the next time I can do a little bit better. But congrats to her, I’m glad she won the tournament.”
Sieg and Tian played each other three times in singles throughout the season, with Tian winning two of those matches. The USC freshman was injured in her first match against Tian, giving Sieg an 0-2 record against her crosstown rival. Sieg finished the season with only three losses in singles for a record of 32-3.
Even though it was her first NCAA tournament, Sieg tried not to let the bright lights get to her.
“Looking at the draw on the first day, I could see it was pretty stacked,” Sieg said. “There was a lot of good competitors in it, so I definitely was a little bit nervous, but I was also confident because I’d had a great season already and I know what I can do.”
In her first-ever Individual Championships, Sieg won her first four matches between Monday and Friday before going up against Tian. The Connecticut native dominated in her first two matches, taking both in straight sets.
“I was nervous, but I was able to calm [down] just by knowing my game plan and what I wanted to do,” Sieg said. “I had played [UNC’s Carson Tanguilig] before, so I was pretty clear on what I had to do, but I just knew what my game was and kind of paid attention to myself, and it worked out.”
It was a comeback win for Sieg in the Round of 16 against Georgia’s Dasha Vidmanova, dropping the first set before taking the next two to complete the reverse sweep. Sieg then won her quarterfinals match 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.
Despite losing to Tian, championship aspirations were not over for the freshman, as she and her doubles partner Cayetano had a match in the doubles semifinals against UNC’s freshman Reese Brantmeier and senior Elizabeth Scotty. The freshman-senior duo went down somewhat quietly in that match and lost in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3.
This was the furthest a USC doubles team had gone since 2019, when Angela Kulikov and Rianna Valdes lost in the semifinals.
“[Cayetano and I] work really well together, and we know what works best,” Sieg said. “[Doubles] is similar [to singles] in the way where you have to problem solve and kind of figure out what plays work best. But it’s nice to have someone else do that with you.”
UNC dominated women’s doubles as a Tar Heel team won the title, but it wasn’t the duo that beat Sieg and Cayetano. Two UNC pairs duked it out in the finals.
Although Sieg and Cayetano had competed together throughout the season, prior to the first round of the NCAA Championships against UNLV, USC had six matches in which the duo was not competing together. The duo finished the season with a 17-5 record.
Sieg, still early into her USC career, became the first Trojan to make the singles and doubles semifinals in the same season. She was also the only player to make the semifinals in both brackets.
“I’m super proud of myself,” Sieg said. “If someone would have told me that on day one, I would have been very happy. So, I’m glad I was able to do it individually but also to do it both in doubles. I was happy that I was the only one to do that, so it’s just really cool and special.”
Since she was competing in both the singles and doubles tournaments, Sieg had to play two matches on four of the five days she was competing.
Sieg is looking ahead toward the rest of her Trojan career and the next NCAA tournament as USC tennis is done for the season.
“I’m just going to keep working on my aggressive mindset,” Sieg said. “Whenever I get up on the court and do my thing, it pays off, and it works really well. So, I’m just going to keep working on trusting that and staying consistent with it.”