Men's TennisSports

Oregon still in prime position despite rough start to Pac-12 play

After navigating through the preseason on a hot streak, Oregon men’s tennis has struggled in Pac-12 play. The Ducks (13-4, 0-2) dropped their first two conference matches of the season.

Winning a conference game may not prove as difficult moving forward, though, considering the Ducks opened Pac-12 play by facing the top two teams in the conference. They will not have to face either opponent again until the postseason.

Oregon opened conference play with an ugly loss to the No. 6 UCLA Bruins on March 26. It was likely the Ducks’ worst loss of the season and marked the first time this year the team had been beaten at home. UCLA’s Mackenzie McDonald, the No. 9 singles player in the nation, topped Oregon’s 94th-ranked Daan Maasland in the No. 1 spot, and the Bruins cruised to a 4-1 victory.

Two days later, the Ducks came within a few points of topping the No. 8 USC Trojans. Oregon rallied back to tie the match at 3-3 after trailing early, but No. 3 player Simon Stevens lost a third set breaker to USC’s Jake DeVine in the last match of the day.

The two losses certainly haven’t derailed the Ducks’ season though. Their match with USC proved that they are capable of going toe-to-toe with the top teams in the country.

Oregon has reached as high as No. 20 in the ITA rankings this season, but sat at No. 26 going into last weekend. During the preseason, the Ducks completed the best start to a season in school history.

The toughest part of the Ducks’ schedule is behind them, and they will be the top-ranked team in each match for the rest of the regular season, with the exception of No. 15 California on April 9.

The Ducks will have to win multiple matches on the road moving forward. They play their final two home matches this weekend and will then finish their season by playing their final four matches on the road.

Oregon has one factor working in its favor: the team has been unbeatable in doubles matches. The Ducks have won the doubles point in their last 11 matches, and in doing so have given themselves a tremendous amount of momentum at the start of each match.

The worst of the Pac-12 schedule is behind them, and the Ducks are in prime position to make a late season surge. They will host Arizona on April 1 and Utah on April 3 as they attempt to get their season back on track.

Follow Jarrid on Twitter @jarrid_denney

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Jarrid Denney

Jarrid Denney

Jarrid Denney is an associate sports editor and senior reporter at the Daily Emerald. He primarily covers the Oregon football and baseball beats. Follow along for Twitter updates @jarrid_denney.