The Stanford men’s tennis team fell short in the Big Match on Saturday as Cal snapped Stanford’s 10-game win streak on Senior Day at Taube Family Tennis Stadium. The Cardinal, who could have clinched the Pac-12 title outright with a win, now settle for a share of the title with USC.
After winning the doubles point, the Cardinal lost three of five singles points, making the score 3-3. Stanford’s last shot at victory came down to junior Nolan Paige on Court 5, who, after splitting the first two sets against Cal’s Billy Griffith, lost a tightly contested third set to give Cal the 4-3 win. The final set had the fans on pins and needles, as each of the last three games went to deciding points at deuce.
“We put a lot of emphasis on doubles coming in because we had lost a doubles point to these guys about two months ago, and maybe we didn’t do quite a good enough job of regrouping from a solid doubles point and playing the singles,” said head coach Paul Goldstein. “But, like I said, this thing came down to a point here, a point there.”
Several of the team’s recent wins, including those in upsets against USC and UCLA last weekend, were decided by the last singles match.
“We’ve played several really close matches this year, matches that came down to exactly the type of situation that we’ve had today and frankly, we’ve won four of them, and that’s uncommon,” Goldstein said. “I feel for Nolan, that we couldn’t do more to support him to get him a win. I feel for Robert Stineman, playing his last home match, that I couldn’t do more to help him get through.”
Seniors Stineman and John Morrissey, honored with a sign attached to a piece of net as part of a new Senior Day tradition, crushed their doubles opponents 6-2. Every volley Morrissey played was greeted with rapturous support from the crowd, the loudest of which were a few dozen of his fraternity brothers from Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
“They’re so loyal,” Morrissey said. “They come to almost every match, and they really give me that extra boost and that motivation to keep pushing. It’s phenomenal to have them out here.”
At the end of the day, the Cardinal finished the season better than expected and have a chance at redemption against Cal should the Bears win their first game in the Pac-12 tournament. Goldstein, in his first year as head coach at Stanford, said he shared the bittersweet feeling of his players.
“As a competitor, I’m disappointed,” he said. “If you take a step back and look at the season, I’m pleased.”
Looking forward to the Pac-12 tournament this weekend, Morrissey said the team simply has to refocus on the frame of mind they have had all season long.
“It’s what we’ve been emphasizing all year: process over outcome. We’ve improved a lot, and we want to go back to the basics; we’re not going to let this loss affect us too much,” he said. “We’re going to potentially see them in less than a week, so we’re going to look at what we could’ve done better today and show a stronger face next week.
Contact Tristan Vanech at tvanech ‘at’ stanford.edu.