Ahead of Tuesday’s season opening match, men’s tennis coach John Whitlinger acknowledged that it would be all but impossible to replace two players as dominant as graduated seniors Bradley Klahn and Ryan Thacher.
“When you have two guys who have been at the top of the lineup for basically the last four years, a doubles team that’s been among the best in the nation, you’re talking about very big shoes to fill,” Whitlinger said. “Now, I know there are guys on the roster who can step up for us. I just have to see it once we get out there.”
But with an impressive showing against Sac State at Taube Tennis Stadium, the Cardinal proved that the team makes up for its lack of star power with plenty of depth.
Without Klahn, a six-time All-American and NCAA singles champion in 2010, and Thacher, a three-time All-American, Stanford swept all six singles matches en route to a 7-0 win over the Hornets.
After senior Matt Kandath and sophomore John Morrissey opened the match with a 8-6 win in doubles, Morrissey cruised to a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Aliaksandr Malko in the No. 1 spot.
Despite losing six consecutive games and the first set 6-0, Kandath roared back to beat Marek Maksoo 0-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the No. 2 slot.
Nolan Paige’s 6-3, 6-1 victory over Sean Kolar in the No. 3 position was technically the match’s clincher, but Stanford didn’t stop there as Trey Strobel, Maciek Romanowicz and Robert Stineman completed a perfect afternoon for the home side.
Paige, Strobel and Romanowicz are all freshmen, something Whitlinger alluded to on Monday when he said that he “wouldn’t be surprised if two, or even three, of the freshmen cracked the singles lineup. Their IQ for the game and work ethic are very good. Nolan played well at ITA Regionals and two of his wins were top-conference guys in Kyle McMorrow and Riki McLachlan. Maciek has a great attitude on the court, Trey is ranked in doubles with junior Jamin Ball at No. 57 and Anthony is a crafty player who I can also see stepping up and winning a match.”
With the Hornets out of the way, Stanford turns its attention to the Aggies of Texas A&M, who will visit the Farm on January 25th for the first round of the National Team Indoor Championships.
Although the Aggies are currently No. 26 in the country, anyone else Stanford faces in the championship rounds will likely be a top-20 opponent. The Cardinal’s path to Seattle, the site of the finals to be held mid-February, is one of the toughest in the draw. If Stanford can get past A&M, No. 27 San Diego or No. 29 Texas Tech await.
Stanford last captured the hardware at this tournament in 2002 with a 4-3 win over Illinois.