The No. 15 USC men struggled against Stanford on Saturday, dropping a back-and-forth marathon 4-3 to the Cardinal despite holding multiple leads.
“We just didn’t go and execute at the time we needed to,” head coach Brett Masi said. “Stanford was ready for us. We just didn’t finish out the match that we should have won.”
USC sophomore Stefan Dostanic had a strong showing, clinching the doubles point alongside junior Bradley Frye and winning in singles to give the Trojans a 2-1 edge.
Stanford grabbed the momentum following Dostanic’s victory, however, behind two consecutive victories on courts one and two. Senior Axel Geller and freshman Arthur Fery beat USC’s top two singles players in senior Daniel Cukierman and redshirt senior Riley Smith.
“Stanford took a lot of momentum,” head coach Brett Masi said. “They came out and were very aggressive. We definitely had to respond to them.”
With the Cardinal holding a slim 3-2 advantage, attention turned to courts five and six where USC junior Jake Sands and freshman Lodewijk Weststrate each held leads. If everything held, the Trojans would steal a win in Palo Alto.
“We responded well,” Masi said. “We kind of took control, in my opinion of the match on most of the courts. We were up a break in the third [sets].”
Sands, who has come up big for the Trojans all year, evened things up with yet another clutch win while freshman Lodewijk Weststrate held a lead in the clinching match. However, Weststrate let a third-set lead get away, giving Stanford the 4-3 win.
“We let it slip out of our hands,” Masi said. “Whether you call that tightness, or scoreboard watching or whatever it is, we definitely didn’t close the way that we need to be able to against a team like that or anybody if we’re going to go on and win a Pac-12 title or an NCAA title for that matter.”
The loss was the Trojans’ fifth by that narrow 4-3 margin on the season, rendering their 16-6 record an underrepresentation of their season to date as the calendar nears its shift to postseason play.
“In each one of those [4-3] matches, we were ahead in it, leading it, had match points in… " Masi said. “If we win all of those we’re sitting here 21-1 and we’re No. 1 in the country. Instead we’re 16-6, but the margin is so very small.”
Following a strong showing in Arizona last weekend, the No. 34 USC women stumbled this weekend at home, dropping consecutive matches to No. 27 Cal on Friday and No. 38 Stanford on Saturday.
While Cal claimed four of the first five points to earn a swift victory, there were two key moments that went in favor of the Golden Bears which ultimately decided the match.
The first came in the third doubles match on court two featuring USC redshirt senior Clare McKee and junior Salma Ewing. After the first two matches were split, the doubles point came down to a 7-6 thriller that went to Cal senior Anna Bright and freshman Hannah Viller Moeller.
The second came in the singles match on court three between USC freshman Naomi Cheong and Cal sophomore Valentina Ivanov. The resilient Trojans had tied things up at one apiece with a win from Ewing on court one.
After forcing a third-set tiebreaker, Cheong was forced to retire due to injury, giving Ivanov the victory and, more importantly, the Golden Bears a 2-1 edge. Cal closed out the next two singles matches to secure the 4-3 victory and their seventh straight Pac-12 win.
Ewing continued her strong play this weekend on Saturday, earning her second singles victory over a top 50 opponent in as many days. However, she was the lone bright spot on a difficult day for the Trojans against the Cardinal.
Stanford won 44 of its last 46 conference matches heading into the weekend, including six consecutive against USC, and it was more of the same on Saturday. The Cardinal grabbed the first two doubles matches and followed by winning five of six singles to earn the 6-1 victory.
The loss drops the Trojans to 11-8 and 5-4 in Pac-12 play.
The men and women complete their regular seasons with rivalry matchups against UCLA on Friday. The women travel across town while the men will host the Bruins.