Trojan tennis fuels bounceback weekend

The USC men and women complete 2-0 weeks after disappointing losses last weekend.

The No. 39 USC women travelled to Arizona this weekend, looking to steady their position in the Pac-12 after a slow start to conference play had them jockeying for position in the middle of the standings.

The Trojans fell victim to the dominant doubles play of Oregon last Friday, putting them in a hole too difficult to climb out of. USC flipped the script this weekend, however, riding the momentum of a doubles sweep to five first set singles victories.

The Trojans converted all five of those first set victories into five points and a dominant 6-1 victory. Redshirt seniors Clare McKee and Summer Dvorak, junior Salma Ewing and sophomore Eryn Cayetano all won their matches in straight sets as well, an exclamation point on an already impressive Trojan performance.

Waiting for them in Tempe were the No. 34 Sun Devils. The winner would stay alive in the Pac-12 regular season race while the loser would be eliminated from title contention.

The doubles matches lived up to the billing. Dvorak and freshman Naomi Cheong grabbed the first match for USC, but ASU seniors Ilze Hattingh and Lauryn John-Baptiste responded with a win of their own.

The Sun Devils seemed to grab the momentum after redshirt senior Sammi Hampton and freshman Marianna Argyrokastriti won their match 7-6 in a seven-point tiebreaker. Cali Jankowski kept things rolling for ASU, defeating McKee on court six to extend the Sun Devil advantage.

Having dropped the doubles point in excruciating fashion and behind 2-0, this resilient USC team turned in their most impressive response all season.

Cayetano steadied things for USC, with a straight set victory on court two, and a Trojan avalanche ensued. Junior Danielle Willson won in straight sets on court four, followed by Ewing on one, Cheong on three and Dvorak on five.

The commanding finish secured USC’s 5-2 victory and kept its Pac-12 regular season hopes alive. The Trojan win improves them to 5-2 in conference play, and moves them back up to No. 4 in the standings.

While USC is in fourth with just three matches to play, all three of those come against the teams that sit ahead of them: UCLA, Stanford and Cal. The Trojans are back home this weekend, taking on the Golden Bears on Friday and the second-place Cardinal on Saturday.

The No. 16 USC men stayed home for a pair of matches this weekend against Washington and Oregon as they looked to turn the corner from a disappointing weekend of their own.

First up for the Trojans was a struggling Huskies team that had yet to win a match in Pac-12 play. The doubles matches went as expected for USC, earning 6-0 and 6-2 victories to quickly grab the 1-0 lead.

Sophomore Ryder Jackson made his first appearance for the Trojans since the Indoor National Championships and did not disappoint. He won in doubles alongside freshman Lodewijk Weststrate and claimed the first singles point for USC with a straight set victory.

“It’s just nice to have [Jackson] back on the court,” head coach Brett Masi said. “I thought he and [Weststrate] did an awesome job. It’s all about how you feel in terms of your confidence. I think as the match went on, he felt a lot more comfortable.”

Westrate also earned a straight set singles win, and sophomore Stefan Dostanic put things to bed for USC with a straight set clincher on court two, putting a bow on a dominant 4-0 win for the Trojans.

Oregon came into town less than 24 hours later in a match that pitted unstoppable force against immovable object. The Ducks had won 13 of 16 doubles points coming in, but the Trojans boasted the No. 2 duo in senior Daniel Cukierman and junior Riley Smith.

“Whether it’s a point or a game being done, you have to look forward and not behind,” Masi said of avoiding a letdown with the quick turnaround. “That’s something that we’ve been telling our guys.”

Oregon junior Joshua Carlton and sophomore Luke Vandecasteele handed Cukierman and Smith just their second loss of the season as Oregon claimed the doubles point and the 1-0 edge.

Cukierman and Jackson continued their hot singles play to regain the 2-1 lead for the Trojans. Dostanic added a three-set victory on court three to put USC one point away from the win. Smith put the match away for the Trojans after grinding out a straight-set win on court two.

The win improves the No. 16 Trojans to 4-1 in conference play, but they still sit at third in the Pac-12 standings.

“We’re getting closer,” Masi said. “We’re not quite there yet. When I see that we don’t have any slip-ups and we play matches like we did against Stanford on a consistent basis, then you’ll see that I’ll be a happy coach.”

While USC gets a shot at Stanford next week, it will need some help if they are to catch first place Arizona. In addition to the match against the Cardinal on Saturday, the Trojans will also make a stop in Berkeley for a matchup against Cal on Friday.