The No. 11 Stanford men’s tennis team suffered two tough losses over the weekend at the hands of the Pac-12 powerhouses from Southern California: No. 1 USC and No. 6 UCLA. The Cardinal (14-7, 4-2 Pac-12) was roundly defeated in both matches, 7-0 in front of a packed crowd at USC’s Marks Stadium on Saturday and 6-1 in front of the Bruin faithful on Sunday.
These losses were the second time in two months that the L.A. schools have dismantled the Cardinal, with identical 6-1, 7-0 scores when the teams played at the beginning of March at the Farm as well — a testament to the strength of the two Los Angeles teams. USC has now shut out Stanford twice this season, a very rare event in the storied history of Stanford tennis.
In recent years, the Trojans have developed into a member of the collegiate tennis elite. For four years, the Trojans have dominated their competition, winning three straight NCAA team championships. Their top player, senior Steve Johnson, the reigning NCAA singles champion, took that mantle from Stanford senior Bradley Klahn, who won the title in 2010.
This year has been much of the same for USC, which is undefeated on the season at 24-0 after defeating Stanford. Dating back to last season, the Trojans are riding a 44-match winning streak, a particularly impressive feat in today’s collegiate tennis climate of aggressive international recruiting and overall parity.
Just like in the squads’ March 3 meeting at the Farm, Saturday’s match against USC got off to a bad start and only became progressively worse for the Cardinal. The Trojans swept the three doubles matches, with their top pairing of Johnson and Roberto Quiroz upsetting Stanford’s stalwart tandem of seniors Klahn and Ryan Thacher. Leading 1-0, USC took that momentum into the singles play where, at times, the Cardinal squad simply looked overmatched. Only sophomore Daniel Ho, playing out of the No. 6 spot, managed to win a set against a Trojan opponent, but he fell in the third-set tiebreaker 10-7, long after the outcome of the match had been determined.
“It was definitely tough playing USC,” Ho said. “They are a very good team, and we gave it our best. We just have to get better before we play them again.”
“It’s never a great atmosphere after a loss like that,” he added. “There was definitely some anger, too, given our history with them.”
The match on Sunday against UCLA did not go much better for head coach John Whitlinger’s squad. The Bruins jumped out of the gate just like the Trojans and won all three doubles matches, giving them the first point of the match and the momentum that goes along with it.
Singles play was nearly as lopsided on Sunday as on Saturday, with Klahn the only one able to muster any sets off of a Bruins opponent; Klahn won out of his No. 1 position while the rest of his teammates fell in straight sets.
Stanford next plays at home against Pacific on Wednesday before ending the regular season on Friday at Cal. Next week, the playoffs begin, starting on April 25 with the opening round of the Pac-12 Championships in Ojai, Calif.