On Friday, No. 29 Stanford men’s tennis (5-4) will host the No. 9 USC Trojans (6-2) in its Pac-12 opener. The next day, the Cardinal will take on the No. 4 UCLA Bruins (8-2).
The Cardinal are coming off of a tough 4-3 loss to perennial rival No. 18 Cal on Saturday — part of a three-game losing streak that includes losses to No. 24 Texas and No. 3 TCU. It will not be easy for them to get right back on track, however, as the highly ranked Trojans and Bruins will pose significant challenges to the young team.
Head coach Paul Goldstein, however, is unfazed by the team’s recent losses.
“One of the things I am most pleased about and makes me feel most privileged in this role is to see how our team as a group has responded,” he said. “Looking at the way this group of young men has supported each other and maintained belief in one another is a really special thing.”
One reason for the Cardinal’s recent struggles is the intensity of their schedule in the early part of this season. Five of their first nine matches have been against opponents ranked in the top 25, with Stanford coming away victorious in only one of those contests.
Senior Anthony Tsodikov was optimistic about the strength of schedule. “We want to play the best teams in the nation and see where we stack up. Our losses have showed us that we can play with any team. The strength of the schedule really gives us confidence that in May we have a chance to be on top [for NCAAs].”
In order to get back on the right track, the team will need to regroup, focusing on eliminating any weaknesses that opponents might exploit.
The team has dropped the doubles point in its last three losses, although the duo of seniors Nolan Paige and Maciek Romanowicz put forth a strong effort in beating the top TCU doubles team. When the Cardinal win the doubles point, they have gone on to win the rest of the match five out of six times; when they drop the point, they have an 0-3 record.
The team shows promise, and they have put up valiant efforts even in defeat. Despite playing such a high caliber of competition, the Cardinal have not yet been swept in a match, and they have blanked their opponents in all six of their victories.
Individual players have also put up strong performances. Sophomore Tom Fawcett, currently ranked No. 4 in the country, has not yet dropped a match at the extremely competitive No. 1 position. Freshman Sameer Kumar has also had strong results, including a notable 6-1, 6-1 demolition of Texas’ No. 4 player, and has only lost once this season.
USC has had recent difficulties, losing its last two matches to strong No. 2 TCU and No. 5 Wake Forest squads. The Trojans will be well rested, however, as they have not played in any competition since Feb. 14.
Meanwhile, the Bruins are coming off a 7-0 sweep of UC Irvine on Saturday. UCLA features perhaps the conference’s deepest roster, highlighted by Mackenzie McDonald, Martin Redlicki, and Gage Brymer, their top three players, that are all ranked in the nation’s top 50.
The Bruins will pose a formidable challenge for Stanford, as their only losses this season come at the hands of North Carolina and Virginia, the No. 1 and 2 teams in the country, respectively.
Stanford takes on USC at 3 p.m. on Friday, and UCLA at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Taube Family Tennis Center.
Contact Yousef Hindy at yhindy ‘at’ stanford.edu.