Men’s and women’s tennis wrap up non-conference play

The men’s team blew out Utah, while the women had a “did not finish” result and a loss to Pepperdine.

After a tough loss last week to No. 23 Pepperdine, the No. 10 USC men bounced back with a dominant 7-0 victory over Utah on Saturday.

In the doubles matches, junior Bradley Frye and freshman Sean Holt set the tone for the Trojans with a 6-1 victory on court three. Junior Jake Sands and freshman Lodewijk Weststrate followed on court two with a 6-2 victory to secure the doubles point and a 1-0 USC lead.

USC was still not at full strength this week for the singles matches, however, as they were once again without senior Daniel Cukierman, junior Mor Bulis and sophomore Stefan Dostanic.

“Guys are just a little banged up,” coach Brett Masi said. “I definitely like to have more of our guys out there, that’s for sure, but when we get going into the meat of our Pac-12 schedule, I think you’ll start seeing a more healthy Trojan squad.”

The short-handed Trojans relied on their depth, earning victories from all six singles matches, including wins from three underclassmen in Weststrate, Holt and redshirt freshman Colter Smith.

“I was super happy for them and proud of them,” Masi said. “Pressure is pressure. Some of those guys aren’t used to being out there under that environment, but when they needed to step up they did.”

The USC upperclassmen also had an impressive outing on Saturday, as Frye, Sands and junior Riley Smith all earned impressive two-set victories in the three clinching matches of the evening.

“They know that they’ve got to put the team on their shoulders when a guy like Daniel is out or Mor or Stef,” Masi said. “It makes you feel good down at the bottom when those guys take care of their positions and can relieve some pressure from the younger guys.”

The Trojans face a short turnaround next week. They will travel to San Diego on Tuesday for a match against the No. 35 Toreros, as they look to improve on their 11-4 record in their last non-conference matchup of the regular season.

For the No. 21 USC women’s tennis, it was a weekend of mixed results.. After they amassed a 3-1 lead over UC Santa Barbara on Friday, the teams were forced to stop play due to rain, so the match did not count as a win or loss. The Trojans then fell to No. 4 Pepperdine for the third time this season in a tough 4-1 match at Marks Stadium Sunday.

Redshirt senior Summer Dvorak and junior Danielle Willson got things started against the Gauchos, defeating UCSB freshmen Camille Kiss and Marta Gonzalez Balbe 6-3.

They were followed by USC sophomore Eryn Cayetano and freshman Naomi Cheong who claimed the doubles point for the Trojans with a 6-4 victory over UCSB juniors Elizaveta Volodko and Lise Sentenac.

The Trojans grabbed the first two singles points of the afternoon as well behind 6-3, 6-3 victories from Dvorak and Cheong, pushing the USC lead to 3-0. UCSB sophomore Shakhnoza Khatamova responded for the Gauchos, defeating junior Salma Ewing 6-3, 6-4 on court three to keep their hopes alive.

At the conclusion of the match on court three, with the score at 3-1 in the Trojans’ favor, the match was called due to lightning and the worsening rainy conditions.

“It would’ve been nice to finish for sure,” coach Alison Swain said. “It’s always a little disappointing not to get to do that especially when we were so close.”

Having fallen to the Waves twice already this season, the Trojans were looking for some revenge against Pepperdine. The Waves were fresh off a victory against No. 5 UCLA on Friday, looking to complete a three-match season sweep of the Trojans.

The Waves wasted no time asserting themselves in the doubles matches. Pepperdine sophomore Lisa Zaar and freshman Taisiya Pachkaleva defeated USC’s Dvorak and Willson 6-4 on court three.

Wave graduates Pachkaleva and Jessica Failla earned victories over Willson and Cheong on courts four and one to open singles, burying the Trojans in a 3-0 hole as the Waves looked to put the match away.

USC would not go away, however, as Ewing kept them alive with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over Fukuda on court three. Meanwhile, the remaining matches, on courts two, five and six had all moved to tie-breaking third sets.

“Our message to the team, and their thoughts as well, is really starting to believe that we can compete with the best teams in the country,” Swain said.

Zaar stamped out any hope for the Trojans, however, as she took the third set 6-1 over Claire McKee on court six to seal the 4-1 victory for Pepperdine and complete the Waves’ season sweep of the Trojans.

“We’re right there with them,” Swain said. “It’s certainly disappointing not to get the win today, but we’re trying to take what we can from that match and realize we were right there with them today.”

USC finished with a 7-5 record and, gained valuable experience against top-level teams like Pepperdine.

“All these matches have made us better,” Swain said. “Not having a fall season and with COVID-19 shutting down our season last March, we’ve needed a lot of match play. Even though the result wasn’t what we wanted today, each time we play them we get a little closer. We’re better today than we were two months ago when we first played them.”

The Trojans kick off the conference portion of the schedule with a pair of matches this weekend, playing host to Colorado on Friday and Utah on Saturday at Marks Stadium.