Men’s tennis enters Pac-12s on a hot streak

No. 27 Stanford men’s tennis (14-4, 5-2 Pac-12) will look to continue riding the hot streak on which it ended its season when it takes to the courts in Ojai, Calif. to kick off the Pac-12 Championships on Thursday before it likely earns a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

(ZETONG LI/The Stanford Daily)

Junior John Morrissey (above), who has been playing at the number one singles spot for Stanford, has risen to No. 103 on the national singles rankings heading into this week’s Pac-12 Tournament in Ojai, Calif. (ZETONG LI/The Stanford Daily)

The Cardinal, having climbed 10 spots in the rankings after a 4-2 win over rival No. 16 Cal over the weekend to cap their regular season, will enter the tournament as the third seed, earning a first-round bye past the initial round of matches of Wednesday as a result.

Stanford will ride an encouraging five-match winning streak into the postseason, including wins over ranked opponents, then-No. 39 Oregon and Cal. And although more is at stake in the tournament, head coach John Whitlinger isn’t looking to treat the upcoming tournament matches any differently than he would regular-season matches.

“You say that it’s just another match, but obviously it’s a tournament,” Whitlinger said. “You try not to make it a big deal; it is another match that you’ve just got to get four points in…keep everything as normal as possible. You just get the guys to the right point. You don’t want to over-rev them up. Trust that what you’ve been doing in practice makes you ready to play those matches.”

The late-season resurgence came after a tough weekend in southern California in which the Cardinal were swept by then-No. 2 USC and then-No. 3 UCLA in back-to-back matches, which snapped a season-high six-match win streak that included a trio of tough 4-3 road victories.

In doing so, Stanford rocketed up the national rankings, rising 25 spots from its spot on April 1 to the end of the season. In addition, after having been a bubble NCAA Tournament team for the majority of the season, the strong ending to the season has made the Cardinal almost certain to be named to the national tournament in late May.

Stanford’s doubles play leaves room for improvement as it moves into the tournament. Due to injuries on the roster and inconsistencies in the lineups as a result, Stanford has dropped 10 doubles points this season despite having lost just four matches. Although strong singles play has helped bail the Cardinal out, Whitlinger identified the inconsistent play to open matches as a concern moving forward.

“As you get into tournaments, that doubles point is gigantic,” Whitlinger said. “You only have to win three singles matches instead of four…[our guys have] been able to step up to the plate and come through in singles, but it’s always nicer to get that first point and move on from there.”

In its first round of tournament play on Thursday, Stanford will face the winner of Wednesday’s match between No. 6 Washington and No. 7 Oregon. Although the Cardinal were undefeated in matches against both the Huskies and Ducks this season, the second match against Washington certainly didn’t come easily, with Stanford needing last-second heroics from sophomore Anthony Tsodikov to clinch a narrow 4-3 win.

Oregon will enter the matchup against Washington having lost seven of its last eight matches, including a 4-3 defeat to Washington in the teams’ regular-season finale. It was a disappointing ending to what looked to be a promising season for a Ducks team that started the season 13-1. Meanwhile, Washington will also enter the match against Oregon having dropped three of its last four matches, meaning that regardless of who wins that first-round matchup, Stanford will play an opponent that has been struggling as of late, while the Cardinal themselves are playing their best tennis right now, especially coming off of an emotional win against rival Cal.

Heading into the tournament, two Stanford players have jumped into the national singles rankings, with sophomore Maciek Romanowicz ranked No. 69 in the nation while junior John Morrissey, who has been playing at number-one singles for the Cardinal, jumped to No. 103.

The winner of the second-round matchup between Stanford and its opponent will move on to face second-seeded UCLA, which has dominated Pac-12 play outside of a tough loss to USC to close out its regular season, earning a double bye directly to the semifinals of the conference tournament.

The matchup between Stanford and the winner of Washington and Oregon will start at 2 p.m. on Thursday.

Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Do-Hyoung Park

Do-Hyoung Park '16 is the Head Copy Editor at The Stanford Daily. He has previously served as managing editor of sports and sports desk editor and still writes for the football, soccer and baseball beats. Do-Hyoung is a junior originally from Seoul, South Korea and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota pursuing a major in chemical engineering. To contact him, please email him at dpark027 'at' stanford.edu.