Oregon looks to make mark at Pac-12 Championships
Wednesday marks the beginning of the Pac-12 Championships for the Oregon men’s tennis program. Oregon’s regular season concluded last Saturday with a 4-2 victory over rival Washington, jumping the Ducks to the fifth seed in the tournament.
Now the focus is set on winning in Ojai, California, and coming back to Eugene with a trophy.
Last season, Oregon entered the tournament as the fifth seed and defeated eighth-seeded Arizona 4-1 the first round. In the second round, the Ducks faced fourth-seeded Cal and lost a nail-biter, 4-3.
This season, Oregon lost close matches to No. 9 USC (4-3) and No. 29 Stanford (4-2) and ultimately went 0-4 against the California Four — Stanford, UCLA, USC and Cal — the four teams that have won 16 of the last 17 conference titles and hold the top seeds this year.
One game at a time — that’s the motto. After being so close last year, Oregon will undoubtedly have the round two matchup on its mind, so the Ducks must defeat either Arizona or Utah in round one. They will most likely face Arizona, which went 0-7 in conference and gave Utah its only win of the conference season Sunday.
Oregon eased its way to a 4-0 win over Arizona at home on April 1. Jayson Amos, Thomas Laurent and Ethan Young-Smith won their singles matches in convincing fashion, giving Oregon its first conference victory.
Oregon’s chances of dropping the doubles point is slim; it has rattled off 15 straight doubles victories. The pairing of Amos and Armando Soemarno has reached a national ranking of No. 30 with a stellar 16-2 record.
With No. 4 Amos entering the national rankings at No. 124, this team has the depth to absorb subpar performances from its top players. Every Oregon singles player holds a winning record this season.
If Oregon advances to the second round, it will face fourth-seeded Stanford.
Stanford’s No. 8 Tom Fawcett defeated Oregon senior Daan Maasland to clinch a hard-fought match.
Doubles in that match was cancelled due to rain. If given the opportunity to play again, the Ducks have the advantage on the doubles court and the opportunity to gain early momentum.
Doubles has been the key for Oregon all season, and it will remain that way throughout the postseason. If the Ducks wish to break into the Pac-12 semifinals, early momentum is needed to upset the higher seeds.
In single elimination tournaments, margin for error is minimal, but a doubles victory can create more. A doubles loss, however, makes room for error almost non-existent.
Another common theme of single elimination tournaments — one that holds true for all sports — is that it is not always the best team that wins, but the hottest.
A victory in the first round would lead to a matchup against Stanford, and a victory over Stanford may give Oregon the momentum it needs to push farther than last season.
Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917
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