The No. 40 Stanford men’s tennis team finished its season with a loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Malibu, Calif., falling 4-2 to No. 20 Louisiana State last Friday afternoon.
The match marked the first time the Cardinal (12-12, 3-4 Pac-12) has lost to LSU (16-12, 5-9 SEC) in the seven times the teams have played each other. After defeating Stanford, LSU lost 4-0 to No. 12 Pepperdine on Saturday afternoon.
“There was a lot of positive energy,” said freshman Nolan Paige. “I really felt like we had a good opportunity, but unfortunately we came up a little short.”
The Cardinal earned an at-large berth in the tournament after suffering a 4-0 defeat at the hands of No. 1 UCLA in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Championships.
Stanford ended the season with a 12-12 overall record and 3-4 Pac-12 record, while LSU finished with a 16-12 season record and 5-9 SEC record.
Though LSU fell 4-3 the first round of the SEC Championships to No. 17 South Carolina, the team was one of 11 SEC schools to book a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Arkansas was the only team in the SEC that failed to earn a spot in the 64-team field.
The Cardinal started strong against LSU, with senior Denis Lin and sophomore John Morrissey picking up an 8-6 victory at No. 1 doubles over the Tigers’ Stefan Szacinski and Tam Trinh.
Juniors Jamin Ball and Daniel Ho lost 8-5 to LSU’s Boris Arias and Chris Simpson, but the Cardinal managed to take the doubles point with an 8-6 win at No. 2 doubles from freshman Maciek Romanowicz and sophomore Robert Stineman, who defeated Roger Anderson and Olivier Borsos.
However, LSU quickly put an end to Stanford’s momentum by taking the first three singles matches. Paige, who played No. 3 singles, was the first to finish, losing 6-1, 6-1 to Borsos.
“I played really badly,” Paige said. “I’m kind of in a slump right now, which is frustrating because I couldn’t help the team to win.”
Senior Matt Kandath, who played No. 2 singles, lost 6-0, 6-2 to Szacinski in the final match of his collegiate career, and the Cardinal’s No. 6 singles player, Lin, suffered a closer 7-6 (5), 6-3 loss to Trinh.
LSU needed one more point to close the match, but Ho, who played No. 5 singles, put Stanford back into play with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Arias. LSU managed to clinch the victory when Morrissey, who played No. 1 singles, lost 7-5, 6-1 to Simpson.
“I think it was just maybe not the best day for some of us, and we didn’t take advantage of some opportunities,” Paige said. “There wasn’t too much of a gap between us [and LSU], which was frustrating.”
While Stanford has amassed a 103-19 NCAA Tournament record and racked up 15 national team championships since 1977, the Cardinal struggled this year with a relatively young team. The singles lineup was composed of three freshmen, two sophomores and a junior for most of the season.
Last year, Stanford advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals under the leadership of Bradley Klahn ’12 and Ryan Thacher ’12. Klahn was an NCAA singles champion in 2010 and the duo of Klahn and Thacher finished second in doubles in 2011. Needless to say, the team has gone through a difficult rebuilding period after they graduated last year.
Though Paige expressed disappointment in the Cardinal’s failure to progress further in the NCAA Championships, he said that the team is already looking forward to future seasons, and hopefully benefit from the experience gained this year.
“We have a lot of starters coming back next year,” Paige said. “We should be able to have a big year, so that’s exciting.”