Tough weekend on the road for USC tennis

Women lose at Oregon while men split against Arizona schools

Dating back to their first matchup in 1997, the USC women were 23-1 against Oregon, and unbeaten since 2017. Coming into Friday’s match in Eugene, however, the Ducks had no trouble dispatching the Trojans in a 5-2 victory.

The Ducks have dominated the doubles matches all season, claiming 13 of 14 doubles points heading into Friday’s match. The Trojans were no exception, as Oregon was victorious on courts one and three to grab the 1-0 edge for the 14th time this season.

The Ducks ran with the momentum, winning all six first sets in the singles matches to take the upper hand. Freshmen Janice Tjen and Uxia Martinez Moral quickly earned straight set victories over USC sophomore Eryn Cayetano and junior Danielle Willson to move ahead 3-0.

The Trojans are not accustomed to going down quietly, having earned at least one point in every match this season. Despite dropping all six first sets and sitting in a 3-0 hole, they dug in once again, picking up three second sets to keep hope alive.

Junior Salma Ewing closed her match out with a flurry, winning the second and third sets 6-2, 6-1 to put USC on the board. Despite forcing tiebreaks in the first and second sets, redshirt senior Clare McKee ultimately fell to Oregon senior Julia Eshet, clinching the match for the Ducks.

The loss moved the No. 38 Trojans to 3-2 in Pac-12 play, dropping them to sixth in the conference standings. They control much of their own destiny, for all five of their remaining matches this season are against teams ahead of them in the standings.

Two of those come this weekend.USC will travel to take on Arizona Friday and Arizona State Sunday.

The USC men faced the Arizona teams this weekend for a pair of matches against the Wildcats and Sun Devils. It was mixed results for the Trojans, as they fell to No. 19 Arizona on Friday but bounced back to beat No. 17 ASU on Sunday.

Junior Mor Bulis made his return to the lineup during singles against the Wildcats on Friday. The Trojans were still not at full strength, however, as sophomore Stefan Dostanic was out with an illness and Bulis was clearly not at 100%.

“Stefan was unfortunate,” head coach Brett Masi said of Dostanic’s health struggles. “Again when you’re down bodies, it can hurt you in the right moments.”

Bulis’s return was spoiled by the Wildcats, as he fell in straight sets to senior Alejandro Reguant. Having also lost the doubles point putting them down 2-0, the Trojans came alive for the first time all match. They took the next three points with victories from senior Daniel Cukierman and juniors Bradley Frye and Jake Sands.

The Wildcats had not beaten the Trojans since the turn of the century and the all-time series stood at a whopping 102-2 in favor of USC coming into the match. Despite the good start, the trend seemed poised to continue.

Leading 3-2 just one point from the win, USC was unable to grab the clincher. Smith and freshman Lodewijk Weststrate each dropped third set tiebreakers in losses to Wildcat freshman Gustaf Strom and senior Carlos Hassey to give Arizona just its third win ever over USC.

“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot and didn’t take care of what we need to,” Masi said. “We led in that match, but [Arizona] seized it when they had the chance.”

The Trojans did not have to sit on the loss for long, however, as they traveled to Tempe less than 48 hours later to take on Arizona State.

USC controlled the match from the start with a dominating 6-1 doubles win from Cukierman and Smith on court one. They were followed by Dostanic and Frye whose 6-3 victory gave the Trojans the 1-0 edge.

Cukierman came into the season as the No. 1 ranked singles player in the country, but when the most recent rankings were released this week, he had slid to No. 26.

Motivated by the slight at the hands of the ITA, Cukierman won all six of his matches this week. He was joined by four other Trojans who earned straight set singles victories to secure the 6-1 blowout win over the Sun Devils on Sunday.

“Seeing that his ranking dropped, I think that sparked a new life for [Cukierman],” Masi said. “He didn’t like it. He worked super hard this week in practice. He won all three of his [singles matches] this week. I don’t know another guy that should get Pac-12 player of the week.”

The win improves No. 15 USC to 14-5 and 2-1 in conference play which is good for 2nd in the Pac-12. USC returns to action next week with a pair of home matches next weekend against Washington on Friday and Oregon on Saturday.