After closing out its regular season on a strong note with a five-match winning streak, the No. 27 Stanford men’s tennis team (14-5, 5-2 Pac-12) was unable to extend its success to the postseason as it suffered a 4-2 first-round defeat in the Pac-12 Tournament at the hands of No. 49 Oregon (17-8, 1-6).
Although the Cardinal had likely booked its ticket to the upcoming NCAA Tournament with its run to end the season, a strong showing at the conference tournament would have left little to doubt about Stanford’s postseason aspirations. And being matched up against either Washington or Oregon — both teams that Stanford had defeated down the stretch — seemed to put Stanford in a favorable position to make a deeper run into the tournament.
However, the third-seeded Cardinal turned in an uncharacteristic performance against seventh-seeded Oregon in which they claimed the doubles point but struggled on singles, which ultimately led to their early exist from the bracket after a first-round bye.
Despite having issues finishing out doubles matches during its winning streak to close out the season, Stanford started out the match against Oregon on a strong note, with the No. 2 doubles pairing of senior Jamin Ball and junior John Morrissey cruising to an 8-4 victory before the No. 3 pairing of freshman Yale Goldberg and sophomore Trey Strobel earned an 8-6 decision to give Stanford just its second doubles point in the last five matches — a good sign given that head coach John Whitlinger had identified the doubles point as a focus for the team moving forward.
Unfortunately for the Cardinal, the normally strong singles corps wasn’t able to take advantage of the early lead. Although Morrissey on court one, senior Daniel Ho on court two, sophomore Anthony Tsodikov on court five and junior Robert Stineman on court six all won their first sets, only Tsodikov was able to carry through to a singles win, as the sophomore gave Stanford its second and final point of the afternoon with a 6-1, 7-6 (4) victory over Oregon’s Joey Swaysland.
On court four, sophomore Nolan Paige was quickly dispatched, 6-3, 6-4 by his Duck opponent, while Stineman and Ho both faltered after their successful first sets with three-set losses to give the Ducks the 3-2 lead. Needing to clinch a victory to tie the match at three points apiece and give Stanford a shot at the win, Morrissey continued his battle on court one but to no avail; the junior from Ireland went down relatively quietly in the third set to No. 78 Robin Cambier of Oregon in a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 decision to ice the match for the Ducks.
The singles performances were a stark contrast to those in the teams’ earlier meeting this season, which Stanford won 4-2 after losing the doubles point. Benefitting from dominant singles performances from Morrissey, Strobel and Tsodikov, as well as the match-clinching three-set victory from Ho, the Cardinal cruised to victory.
The Ducks would go on to flop in the semifinals as they lost 4-0 to second-seeded UCLA, which eventually pulled off the upset of top-seeded USC in the finals to claim the conference tournament title. Stanford was the only team seeded in the top four of the tournament to not reach the semifinals.
Despite its early exit from the tournament, Stanford is still in a good position to claim one of the at-large bids to the 64-team NCAA Tournament field when the selection show occurs this afternoon. The Cardinal will learn their postseason fate and presumptive next matchup when the show airs on NCAA.com at 2 p.m.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.