USC men’s tennis victorious in Masi’s homecoming

The Trojans close out non-conference play with a win at San Diego.

The No. 10 Trojans defeated the Toreros of San Diego in a road match on Tuesday, improving their record to 12-4 on the season at the official end of the non-conference season.

USC coach Brett Masi, who formerly led the Toreros to five consecutive NCAA tournaments and won two WCC Coach of the Year awards, returned to San Diego for the first time as a Trojan.

“It’s where my kids grew up,” Masi said of San Diego. “I spent a lot of time living life more than just being on those courts for coaching. There’s a lot of memories my kids still have.”

Tuesday also saw the return of a few key contributors to the Trojan lineup. Senior Daniel Cukierman played in both singles and doubles for the first time since Feb. 28 in USC’s win against UCLA. Sophomore Stefan Dostanic also returned to the court for the first time since Feb. 26.

“Stefan looked great,” Masi said. “I think he’s ready to go and we’ll be looking forward to having him starting singles next week as well. Daniel’s still a little banged up, but he’s out there fighting. Little setbacks are going to happen and he’s such a warrior that he’s going to come back stronger from this.”

Cukierman and redshirt senior Riley Smith won the clinching doubles match 6-4 in Cukierman’s second doubles appearance since the UCLA match. Junior Jake Sands and freshman Lodewijk Weststrate were also victorious in their doubles match to give USC the 1-0 edge.

The Toreros responded in singles, as freshman Blake Kasday picked up a victory to even the score at one a piece. However, the Trojans earned the next two points of the match behind victories from Sands and junior Bradley Frye.

San Diego did not go quietly, as redshirt junior August Holmgren spoiled Cukierman’s return to singles with a win in three sets on court one. After a back and forth battle on court two, Smith defeated Torero redshirt junior Nico Borter to nail down the victory for the Trojans.

While Cukierman was out, it was Smith who stepped into the No. 1 position in singles for the Trojans. He went undefeated in every match of Cukierman’s absence and did not miss a beat with his victory on court two.

“[Riley]’s gained a lot of confidence,” Masi said. “Stepping into that role a couple of times definitely gives you a huge boost.”

The 12-4 Trojans are slowly returning to full strength and, much to the delight of Masi and his team, they have a week before their next match. USC will return to action on its home courts next Tuesday, March 23 to take on Stanford.