It’s been tough sledding for the Utes in the past several weeks. After a strong start to preseason play, despite injuries, Utah has yet to pull off a match win since conference play began on March 25.
After returning from the Pacific Northwest last weekend, where Utah went 0-2 against Washington and Oregon respectively, the Utes played host to USC and No. 4-ranked UCLA. Utah lost by a combined score of 1-8 in its matchups against the two southern California schools last weekend, marking a six-match losing streak.
“The last four or five matches we have played have been unbelievably close, but we have not been able to convert the big points,”said head coach Roeland Brateanu in a press release. “It is frustrating but we are making progress. We just need to keep working because it is hard to win at this level.”
Utah came out swinging on Friday night, but the Trojans took the first match in doubles play behind Max de Vroome and Jack Jaede, who defeated Parker McGuiness and Jamey Swiggart at the No. 2 spot, 6-3. Dan Little and Matt Cowley rode the momentum of their homecourt Eccles Tennis Center to some early success against Laurens Verboven and Nick Crystal, but weren’t able to hold on as the Trojan pair battled back to take the match, 6-4.
After USC clinched the doubles point, it was on the Utes to make up ground in their respective singles matches. Senior slugger Swiggart knotted up the match for Utah after a commanding 6-4, 6-0 victory over Jaede in the No. 6 spot. Little then was locked in a barn-burner with No. 53-ranked Logan Smith, who took the first set before Little willed himself to a tiebreak. Little fell in the second set tiebreak, 7-6, as USC came away with a 2-1 lead over Utah.
As David Micevski took the lead over No. 32-ranked Crystal in the two-spot, the match was called in favor of USC after Cowley and Egbert Weverink were unable to come out on top against de Vroome and Jake Devine, respectively.
After a disappointing loss to USC, Utah was then swept by the visiting Bruins in its final home game of the season. While UCLA controlled the match from wire-to-wire, fans came out in droves to celebrate the seniors’ final matches on their home court.
“I’m just so grateful and honored to have had this opportunity to represent Utah,” said Utah senior Matt Cowley.
While Cowley ultimately fell to Bruin Mackenzie McDonald, he played what he would later call “arguably the best match of my career.” Cowley battled with nationally No. 9-ranked McDonald through two sets, leading the Bruin 6-3, 5-5 before the match was called in favor of UCLA.
Utah will finish up the regular season when it travels to Tucson to take on Arizona over the weekend.