A week and a half after they were defeated in the final of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, the USC men’s tennis team returned to Marks Stadium to take on the Stanford Cardinal and the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. On Friday, the Trojans routed their conference rival Stanford, 6-1. The Trojans were stunned on Saturday, however, as they were beaten in a heartbreaking 4-3 loss to the Golden Hurricane.
The Trojans allowed the lone point in their Friday matchup against the Cardinal at the beginning of the match. Despite head coach Peter Smith saying that his team had worked on doubles during their time off, the team’s trouble in doubles play continued against Stanford. The Cardinal’s John Morrissey and Robert Stineman struck first in doubles play, beating senior duo Yannick Hanfmann and Roberto Quiroz by a score of 6-3. The Cardinal clinched doubles play when Nolan Paige and David Wilczynski took down sophomore Nick Crystal and senior Jonny Wang with a 7-5 win. Junior Max de Vroome and senior Eric Johnson were ahead of Stanford’s Tom Fawcett and Maciek Romanowicz pairing 5-4 before play was suspended.
Singles play was a much different story for the Trojans as they went a perfect 6-0. In four of the six singles matches, the Trojans didn’t give up a set to the Cardinal. Johnson gave USC its first point of the day when he beat Wilczynski by a score of 6-3, 6-1. Next, Crystal gave the Trojans a 2-1 lead when he reigned victorious in a 6-1, 6-3 win over David Hsu. Then, Hanfmann increased the Trojan lead to 3-1 with his 6-4, 6-4 victory over Fawcett. After that, Quiroz clinched the match for the Trojans with a 6-4, 6-4 defeat over Morrissey. The Trojans and Cardinal finished the remaining two matches, with the Trojans taking both of them. De Vroome gave the Trojans their fifth point in a three-set victory over Paige. De Vroome lost the first set in a tiebreaker, but dominated the second and third sets, winning both of them 6-1. Wang capped off the day for the Trojans, defeating Romanowicz 3-6, 6-4, 1-0 (10-6) to give the Trojans a 6-1 victory over their Pac-12 rival.
The Trojans followed up their performance on Friday with a strong start to their Saturday match-up against the Golden Hurricane. The Trojans controlled doubles play, needing only two matches to clinch the doubles point. Freshmen Tanner Smith and Thibault Forget were the first pairing to claim a victory in doubles play with an impressive 6-0 victory over the Golden Hurricane pairing of Or Ram-Harel and Juan Matias Gonzalez. A short time later, Hanfmann and Wang defeated Dylan McCloskey and Matthew Kirby 6-1 to earn the doubles point for the Trojans. Johnson and Quiroz were up 4-2 on Carlos Bautista and Alejandro Espejo before play was suspended.
Singles play was where the Trojans really struggled in the match. Ram-Harel put his Golden Hurricane team on the board with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Hanfmann. Next, Wang gave the Trojans a 2-1 lead, defeating Kirby in a 7-5, 6-0 victory. After that, Espejo tied things at two games apiece when he beat Quiroz 6-4, 7-6 (0). Then, Dylan McCloskey put the Golden Hurricane on top 3-2, defeating sophomore Connor Farren in a tight three-set battle that finished 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (8-6). Next, Mitchell Pritchard took down sophomore Rob Bellamy 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (5) to give the Golden Hurricane its fourth point, sealing the upset over the Trojans. De Vroome and Bautista finished out their match, with de Vroome coming out victorious with a 7-5, 5-7, 6-5 (4) win, but the damage was already done.
Following the match, members of the Trojans team didn’t have many comments regarding their defeat. Smith said he didn’t think the loss could be attributed to one factor, but believed Tulsa had taken advantage of their chance to win.
“They played good,” Smith said. “They had an opportunity today and they seized it and they took it. And that’s sports.”
Wang summed up the day in an even shorter answer.
“They came out to compete,” Wang said. “They out-competed us today.”
One of the matches that could have made a difference between a win and a loss for the Trojans was Bellamy’s matchup against Pritchard. Bellamy was looking in good shape in the second set before Pritchard made a strong comeback to win the second set and ultimately win via a tiebreaker in the third set.
“I lost my competitive spirit at the end,” Bellamy said. “I made one error in the beginning of the 5-4 game and my energy just dropped. [It] dropped for the rest of the set [and I] couldn’t get it back.”
The Trojans will be in action again on March 5, when the team begins its play in the Pacific Coast Doubles Championships. The team will also have a road game against San Diego on March 5.