The last time the entire Oregon women’s tennis team stood in a line on the neighboring court to cheer on their final player was against Washington last weekend.
That match lasted four hours, with Shweta Sangwan clinching the last point to bring the Ducks to an upset victory over then No. 25 Washington.
The exact same scene played out on Sunday afternoon at the Oregon Student Tennis Center, this time with Alyssa Tobita being the last player standing. And instead of Washington, this time it was the No. 32 USC Trojans on the losing end.
All the other matches had concluded and Oregon was tied with USC 3-3. Tobita’s opponent, No. 38 Jessica Failla, was visibly getting weaker, having to put her hands on her knees to catch her breath. At one moment, she collapsed in the middle of a point.
Tobita, however, was also getting worn out. She compromised two points by hitting the ball into the net, bringing the score in the third set from 5-2 to 5-4.
In the final set, Failla gave up one point when she took too long to serve. She then missed her last two serves, and the rest of Tobita’s teammates rushed the court to envelop her in a group hug as they celebrated the first win of the weekend against a California school.
“Our motto today was ‘Today is our day,’” Tobita, a junior, said. “We’ve always been the underdogs when we play the Cal schools. But that’s what motivates us when we play them. We have nothing to lose.”
Oregon’s 4-3 win against USC, who boasts three ranked singles players, marks the first time they have triumphed over the Trojans, bringing the all-time record to 22-1. With only three positions separating the two teams in the national rankings, it was expected to be a close match all around. In the first set alone, three shootouts were warranted to determine a victor.
Freshman Janvhi Clark returned to the court for the first time since playing against Eastern Washington in late January. She had been wearing a boot due to multiple complications in her ankle, one of which resembled tendonitis, but she was cleared from the boot for two and a half weeks.
This morning, she was notified that she would be playing in the doubles, which came as a pleasant surprise to her.
“It was so cool,” Clark, a New Zealand native, said. “I’ve been working really hard the past few weeks on my mindset and being aggressive.”
Though she only made an appearance in the doubles, pairing up with Nia Rose, her comeback was immediately impactful as they were the first duo to notch a point. Marlou Kluiving and Julia Eshet followed up with a win on their court, putting the Ducks in the lead after the doubles.
“Janvhi’s someone who has always been a great doubles player,” Oregon head coach Alison Silverio said. “We felt today was the right opportunity to put her in and it was something that she deserved. Her instincts right now in doubles are very good. She understands when to make a move. She understands when to be aggressive from the back. She and Nia really complement each other, so it was great to see their chemistry come together in the match today.”
Kluiving was the first to come home with a singles victory, but USC took down Nia Rose, Shweta Sangwan and Daniella Nasser. Eshet tied the score after winning a full three sets against her rival, which left the fate of the match on Tobita’s shoulders.
It was the first time that Tobita had the entire team cheering her on as she faced her final opponent, which she described as a special experience.
“It was really special, especially since last week when we had a moment like that against Washington,” she said. “Knowing how nervous we get watching our teammates and trying to be there for them, it was kinda crazy to be out there myself.”
Tobita’s rival, Faillas, was complaining of stomach issues throughout the match. After the match ended, she was crying as she was carried off the court. Oregon’s celebration quickly quietened down as they gathered their belongings and filed out to the locker room.
With final examinations coming up next week, Tobita said all she wants to do is take a nap before preparing for her first final tomorrow at 8 a.m.
“I wanted to study yesterday, but I was excited for this match,” she said.
The Ducks will face Fresno State on March 29 at Fresno, California.
Follow Romaine Soh on Twitter @mainetainpls