ASU women's tennis loses heartbreaking match to USC, 4-3

The Sun Devils and Trojans engaged in one of the most competitive matches this season

ASU women’s tennis (12-6, 5-3 Pac-12) fell 4-3 against the University of Southern California (9-8, 4-4 Pac-12) in the first of two crucial Pac-12 matches on Easter weekend.

"It was a great college tennis match and that is what you want," head coach Sheila McInerney said. "We had three third sets in singles, and doubles came down to court one. It was very high quality. The kids battled and hopefully we will be in this situation again when the stakes are higher, hopefully in the postseason ... you live and learn." 

The No. 29 Sun Devils came into Friday afternoon’s match at the Whiteman Tennis Center fourth in the Pac-12 standings. Stanford, Cal and UCLA occupy the first three spots, respectively. With the conference championships on the horizon, positioning is up for grabs.

Junior Kelley Anderson and freshman Savannah Slaysman ran into USC’s best doubles pairing. The court two pairing got down 5-0, and despite claiming games six and seven, the Trojans claimed the first match, 6-2.

ASU came out sluggish in doubles, but the Trojans early advantage quickly evaporated.

After splitting the first four games on court three, USC claimed game five to take a 3-2 lead. But, senior Kassidy Jump and sophomore Sammi Hampton used aggressive net play to claim the final four games and the match, 6-3 over junior Madison Westby and freshman Angela Kulikov. Jump and Hampton have won 22 of their last 23 matches. 

"Both at the net and at the baseline, we were pretty aggressive today," Jump said of her and Hampton's performance. 

That put a crucial doubles point in the hands of court one. ASU dropped three of the first four games, but senior Alex Osborne and junior Nicole Fossa-Huergo took their game to a new level. Osborne picked balls off the ground and turned them into winners, while Fossa-Huergo won a few unbelievable exchanges at the net.

With the crowd revved up and both teams positioned on opposite baselines, USC could not handle a return from Osborne, and ASU claimed the doubles point in dramatic fashion.

Heading into singles play, the Sun Devils had the momentum and the home crowd on their side.

However, McInerney knew USC would challenge her players. Even with no-advantage scoring in place, the match lasted over four hours and came down to the final set of the final singles match.

Just as doubles started, ASU started slow in singles. The Trojans won four of six first sets, but the Sun Devils picked up their play.

Sophomore Jessica Failla gave USC its first point with a 6-3, 6-0 dispatching of Hampton on court two. There were plenty of long rallies, but Hampton could not find enough winners. However, Slaysman gave ASU back the lead with an impressive 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 victory over junior Madison Westby. 

The Trojans quickly tied the score up at two points apiece on court three. Sophomore Rianna Valdes defeated Anderson in straight sets, 4-6, 6-7.

Jump might have lost the first set to junior Gabby Smith, but the Granite Bay, California native earned one of her biggest wins of the season in three sets, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. Jump went back to playing her game and really took it to Smith in the second and final sets. 

"The first set I simply played bad and she took advantage. I fell back and I wasn't doing what I have done all week. "(Assistant coach) Matt (Langley) wanted me to go to my backhand and I just tried to get low and be aggressive," Jump said.

ASU was one win away from victory against the No. 39 Trojans, but senior Gussie O’Sullivan lost in straight sets on court six, 3-6, 5-7. That tied the match up at three, putting the contest in Fossa-Huergo’s hands.

After winning the first set against senior Zoe Katz, Fossa-Huergo lost the second. When the match moved to a deciding third set, Katz gained an early advantage, but Fossa-Huergo took a 4-3 lead after seven games. The Bologna, Italy native tied the set up at five games, but she would ultimately loose the set on a double fault, 7-5.

USC claimed victory over ASU – breaking the Sun Devils' five-match win streak

"We just got to bounce back," Jump said. "Everybody that we are going to play tomorrow is going to be just as good, if not better. We had a tough one today, it was a long match, but we just have to be ready and refreshed to take down the Bruins." 

Up Next:

The Sun Devils will take on the No. 22 UCLA Bruins in Tempe, with the first serve set for noon. 

Reach the reporter at or follow @joejacquezaz on Twitter.

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