After a rocky season, the No. 40 Stanford men’s tennis team qualified for the NCAA Championships in Malibu, Calif., through an at-large bid and will face off against No. 20 LSU in the first round of the tournament this Friday.
Though the Cardinal has a 6-0 series record against LSU, the two teams have not played each other since 1998. LSU has a 15-11 record this season and lost in the first round
of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Championships.
LSU has two nationally ranked singles players, No. 42 Chris Simpson and No. 91 Stefan Szacinski. The Tigers also have two ranked doubles teams: No. 31 Szacinski and Tam Trinh and No. 74 Simpson and Szacinski.
Stanford’s sophomore John Morrissey, who is currently ranked 50th, is Stanford’s only nationally ranked singles player. Morrissey and senior Denis Lin are ranked 54th in doubles.
Although Morrissey said that the outcome of the match against LSU will be “very difficult to call” since the teams play in different conferences, he believes that the Cardinal can pick up a victory if the team focuses on improving upon the momentum gained from the end of the season.
“[LSU] had some really good results this year and they are obviously a really good team with a lot of talented players,” Morrissey said. “We are going to try to build off some of the good performances we have put in towards the latter half of the year.”
While the Cardinal has a 12-11 season record and 3-4 Pac-12 record, the team’s conference matches have been against some of the toughest teams in the nation, including No. 1 UCLA and No. 4 USC.
Stanford was seeded fourth in the Pac-12 Championships in late April and fell to UCLA 4-0 in the semifinals after a 4-3 victory over No. 33 Washington in the quarterfinals. UCLA and USC automatically qualified for the NCAA
Championships after finishing first and runner-up, respectively, in the Pac-12 Championships.
“We definitely weren’t satisfied with how things went down there,” Morrissey said. “We were happy with the win against Washington, but definitely thought we could have done more against UCLA.”
The Cardinal has suffered narrow defeats against highly ranked teams, falling 4-3 to both No. 7 Pepperdine and No. 18 Berkeley at home at the end of the season, but was able to pull off decisive victories against lower-ranked or unranked teams, including Arizona, No. 73 Utah and No. 71 Pacific.
If the Cardinal advances past the first round of the NCAAs, they will play the winner of the match between Pepperdine, who is hosting the first two rounds of the tournament, and UC-Santa Barbara.
The Cardinal has played in all but four of the NCAA Championships held since 1977 and has won the tournament’s team title 15 times, with the most recent victory in 2000. Last season, the team advanced to the quarterfinals before falling 4-0 to Virginia.
Under Bradley Klahn ‘12 the team’s former No. 1 player, Stanford reached two consecutive NCAA semifinals in 2010 and 2011. Klahn also claimed the NCAA singles title in 2010 and was the runner-up doubles champion in 2011 with Ryan Thacher ‘12.
Stanford has had 14 NCAA singles champions, including Bob Bryan and John McEnroe ‘78, who won the tournament in 1998 and 1978, respectively.
“Stanford is definitely no stranger to doing well in this tournament, and I think that even though we are a young team, we feel that we can be extremely dangerous if we go out there and play with a lot of intensity,” Morrissey said.
Morrissey was the Cardinal’s only player to qualify for the individual portion of the NCAA Tournament, which will be held from May 22 to 27 in Urbana, Ill. The final rounds of the team championships will also be held in Urbana in late May.
“It’s a huge honor to qualify for that, and I’m really happy to be going to that tournament, but for the moment it is at the back of my mind,” Morrissey said. “I’m focusing on getting the team to Illinois as well, and hopefully we can all be there together.”
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