Women in Washington
The No. 16 USC women traveled to the Evergreen State for a pair of matches this weekend, squaring off against the Huskies on Friday and the Washington State Cougars on Sunday.
On Friday, sophomore Eryn Cayetano and freshman Naomi Cheong started things off for the Trojans, winning their doubles match 6-2. The undefeated duo of redshirt senior Summer Dvorak and junior Danielle Willson followed with a victory of their own to give USC the 1-0 edge heading into singles.
That’s when Washington junior Sedona Gallagher leveled things up for the Huskies with a win over USC junior Salma Ewing. The Trojans answered, however, with three consecutive victories from Willson, Dvorak, and Cayetano that sealed the victory for USC.
“We turned some matches around that we needed to,” coach Alison Swain said. “We came out strong for a doubles point which is something Washington is known for. It was really a team effort. Any day … any one person can be that fourth-point clinch.”
Following the victory over Washington, the 7-3 Trojans travelled to Pullman for a match against Washington State on Sunday.
The Cougars made the first move of the match as senior Michaela Bayerlova and junior Hikaru Sato beat USC’s Cayetano and Cheong 6-4. They were followed by WSU sophomore Pang Jittakoat and freshman Fifa Kumhom, who handed Dvorak and Willson their first doubles loss of the season to put the Cougars up 1-0.
Cayetano quickly tied the match with a win over Sato, but the Cougars took the next two points and the 3-1 lead behind wins from Bayerlova and fifth year Melisa Ates.
Despite the early deficit, the Trojans refused to quit. With the Cougars just one point from the win, USC needed victories in the remaining three matches to pull out the victory. Ewing and Willson stepped up, earning victories in their matches to pull the Trojans level at three.
“One of our goals this season is to be a team known for being fighters,” Swain said. “We’re certainly doing that. I’m really proud of the girls who lost those first sets digging in, coming back and finding a way to push back and take some second sets.”
Since there are only four courts at WSU, Dvorak and Cougar junior Savanna Ly-Nguyen knew exactly what was at stake from the start of their decisive match. Dvorak took the first set 6-2 before ultimately falling to Ly-Nguyen in the next two sets, securing the win for the Cougars.
“There’s some good takeaways here,” Swain said. “We haven’t played away a whole lot yet this season. It was a good lesson today just to see how tough a team can be on their home courts.”
The USC women have two matches next week at UC Santa Barbara on Friday and home against No. 4 Pepperdine on Sunday. Sunday’s match offers the Trojans a shot at redemption against a Waves team who has beaten the Trojans twice already this season.
“We’ve been close with both those matches,” Swain said of the upcoming rematch. “We want the rematch. We’re excited to see them again. Every time this group has faced setbacks, they’ve come back stronger, and I think that’s what you’re gonna see this weekend as well.”
Men’s tennis fall in close match to Waves
Following an emotional comeback victory over rivals UCLA last weekend, the short-handed Trojan men, without senior Daniel Cuckierman and sophomores Stefan Dostanic and Ryder Jackson, saw their three-match win streak come to an end with a 4-3 loss at the hands of No. 27 Pepperdine.
The Waves jumped out to a great start in the doubles matches behind a 6-0 victory from junior Daniel De Jonge and sophomore Pietro Fellin. USC junior Mor Bullis and freshman Lodewijk Weststrate fought back with a 6-2 win, knotting the doubles match at 1-1.
The doubles point came down to the match on court one between USC junior Bradley Frye and redshirt senior Riley Smith and Pepperdine freshman Guy Den Ouden and grad transfer Adrian Oetzbach. The Pepperdine duo of Den Ouden and Oetzbach won the back-and-forth affair 7-5, securing the doubles point and 1-0 for The Waves.
“Credit to Pepperdine. They played well in the right moments, and we didn’t,” coach Brett Masi said. “Whether that was in doubles or in the final match in singles … they played those matches well and we needed to do a better job.”
The Trojans settled in at the start of singles, as Frye and Weststrate both won their matches in two sets to move in front 2-1. The next three matches saw victories from Pepperdine’s Fellin and De Jonge while Smith added a win for the Trojans, evening the score at three.
“Frye is playing great tennis,” Masi said. “[Den Ouden] who he beat is a really high-caliber player. I’m really happy for him. Riley moved up to No. 1 and beat a good player. We did a lot of great things.”
The match came down to the action on court five between USC junior Jake Sands and Pepperdine sophomore Robert Shelton. After a three-set battle that featured two tiebreakers, Shelton came out on top to clinch the 4-3 victory for the Waves.
“We definitely didn’t play our best tennis,” Masi said. “We had three different starters out … but I still felt like we had the ability to beat them at a number of different positions and at one time it looked like we would.”
USC men’s tennis is now 10-4 on the season, but Friday’s loss was just their first outdoor loss this year. The Trojans hope to get healthy next week as they begin conference play on Saturday with a home match against Utah.