The USC Men’s and Women’s Tennis Squad headed to Illinois as top-five seeds looking to cement their bid in the NCAA Championships coming up later this week. Sadly however, neither the Women of Troy nor the Trojans were able to get past the quarterfinals in Illinois, derailing their seasons as neither team reached the national semifinals for the first time in five years.
The tough weekend started for Women of Troy, who fell in heart-wrenching fashion to the 12th-seeded Stanford Cardinal 4-3, in the Round of 16 on Friday. The upset was rather fitting for Stanford, who fell to the cinderella Trojans in last year’s NCAA Quarterfinal but avenged that loss over the weekend.
Stanford overcame a 15-match losing streak to the Trojans, including a 6-1 loss during a regular season beat-down as part of the undefeated Pac-12 slate.
The Stanford Cardinal started out by winning the doubles point, the first team to take it from USC since they dropped it to Oregon in their second-to-last game in Pac-12 play on April 14th. Doubles play was rather dramatic as Stanford came out swinging early taking a 8-1 victory over Gabrielle DeSimone and Danielle Lao of USC. The Trojans answered immediately with an 8-6 victory by Giuliana Olmos and Zoe Scandalis over #28 ranked Stacy Tan and Ellen Tsay.
It all came down the top-ten matchup as the Women of Troy sent their top-ranked tandem of Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria, who won the Pac-12 title, against No. 8 Kristie Ahn and Nicole Gibbs. USC’s duo came out swinging early, taking a 4-1 lead in the matches early stages. Stanford’s combo of Kristie Ahn and Nicole Gibbs rattled off the next six games to put the Trojans in a 4-7 hole.
The Women of Troy responded by breaking the Cardinal twice, and then held serve to gain an 8-7 lead. The match eventually reached a tiebreaker that Stanford won securing the doubles point over Santamaria and Christian for the first time all season.
Stanford took a 2-0 lead when #103 Stacey Tan posted a 6-2, 6-2 win over Giuliana Olmos at the No. 4 spot. USC got on the board next, when Kaitlyn Christian caught fire, smashing Natalie Dillon for a 6-3, 6-1 win. The turning point of the match came when #13 Nicole Gibbs of Stanford upset #2 Sabrina Santamaria 7-6, 6-2, defeating the best Women’s Player in the Pac-12, snapping her 21-match winning streak. Zoe Scandalis responded for the Trojans, coming behind from a 3-5 deficit, winning the second set in a tiebreaker 6-3, 7-6 (5) over No. 14 Krista Hardebeck.
The pressure shifted to senior Danielle Lao who took matters into her own hands to even the match at three. Tied up 5-5 in the third set against Stanford’s No. 25 Kristie Ahn, No. 9 Lao was a warrior through the next two games: she broke Ahn for a 6-5 edge and then sealed the three-set thriller with her serve, 7-5. Lao’s victory meant the match all came down to the final point as No. 79 Gabriella DeSimone was locked 3-3 with Stanford’s No. 92 Ellen Tsay in a three-set battle.
Tsay finished off the jarring upset for the Cardinal with a 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 comeback that pushed Stanford past the Women of Troy, sending the Trojans home with a 23-3 overall record as the Pac-12 champions.
Over on the men’s side, the four-time defending squad lost in their quest for history, after losing a 4-3 thriller to the fifth-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes. Ohio State Head Coach Ty Tucker got the most out of his squad, after losing in the 2009 National Title, defeating USC in a thriller of an National Quarterfinal.
The Ohio State Buckeyes won the doubles point, just as Baylor had done to USC on Thursday, in a highly-intense match up. Yannick Hanfmann and Ray Sarmiento losed 8-3, which forced doubles to come down to court three, where Max de Vroome and Eric Johnson were locked up down the stretch against Hunter Callahan Blaz Rola. The match went to a tiebreaker, where the Trojans took control early with a 4-0 start that gave them momentum for the win on a 9-8 (3) victory that squared the doubles competition.
It all came down to the talented duo of Roberto Quiroz and Emilio Gomez against the second-ranked tandem of Devin McCarthy and Ille Van Engelen. The Trojan duo forced the tiebreaker, and then USC took its first lead on an ace from Emilio Gomez to catch a 5-4 advantage. The Trojans were up 6-5 in the tiebreaker, with match point on the line until the Buckeyes took control, winning the doubles 9-7 taking the doubles point.
USC got on the board when Eric Johnson defeated Chris Diaz with a 6-3, 6-3 victory. The Buckeyes would respond, in a back and forth thriller, as Emilio Gomez lost his second match as the Trojans top-singles player, falling 6-1, 6-0 against Blaz Rola.
The Trojans star junior Ray Sarmineto took to the court aga
inst Peter Kobelt with the match on the line. Both players held serve throughout the match, forcing two tiebreakers in the closing match. The Buckeye’s were able to pull out the basically even match, with a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3) win that wrapped up the upset victory for Ohio State. The 4-3 loss snapped a streak of 27 consecutive NCAA tournament match wins by the Trojans, who finish 2013 with a 26-5 overall record.
Both squads hed home with impressive regular season victories and will now watch the teams that defeated them, Stanford and Ohio State, in the national semifinals which begin on Monday.