By grinding out the biggest victory of his career, senior John Morrissey provided the No. 36-ranked Stanford men with their most memorable tennis weekend in recent memory.
Morrissey's 6-7 (5), 7-6 (2), 6-3 win over 19th-ranked Roberto Quiroz at the No. 2 spot clinched Stanford's 4-3 upset of No. 5 USC on Saturday afternoon at Taube Family Tennis Stadium.
It was the first win for Stanford (15-4, 6-0 Pac-12) over USC (19-4, 5-1 Pac-12) in 10 attempts, with the most recent triumph coming on Feb. 19, 2011, in the form of a 4-3 decision in the consolation round of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Seattle. Stanford had not beaten USC at home since Feb, 3, 2006.
But thanks to gritty play and inspired by a raucous crowd, which included approximately 50 alumni in town for weekend events on The Farm, Stanford completed its first sweep of the SoCal schools since 2009 after shocking No. 15 UCLA 4-3 on Friday.
What it means: Stanford has clinched at least a share of the Pac-12 title, something it last accomplished in 2010. With a victory over visiting Cal next Saturday (2 p.m.), Stanford can claim the conference crown outright for the first time since 2003.
Friday's 4-3 win over UCLA was a pleasant surprise, although with seven straight victories, Stanford had been building for another signature victory to enhance its postseason resume. But a second straight upset, this time against USC - which has won five of the past six NCAA championships - presented a much more difficult challenge.
But once again, Stanford came out ready to play, capturing the doubles point for a 1-0 lead. Coincidentally, the Cardinal's lone point in a 6-1 loss to the Trojans on Feb. 27 in Los Angeles also came from doubles.
USC tied the match at 2-2, with Stanford gaining some ground thanks to a 6-3, 6-4 win from David Hsu on court six.
Stanford freshman Tom Fawcett notched his team-leading 25th victory with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 upset of No. 6 Yannick Hanfmann at the top spot of the lineup, extending the Cardinal's lead to 3-2.
The Trojans responded with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 win on court three, squaring the match at 3.
It would eventually all come down to Morrissey, who entered Saturday's match with a 2-8 career record against USC. Things looked bleak as the match progressed, with Morrissey dropping the first set and facing deficits of 5-2 and 6-5 in the second.
But after prevailing in the second-set tiebreaker, Morrissey raced out to a 4-1 advantage in the deciding frame and held on for the 6-4 win before being mobbed by his teammates after a shot from Quiroz sailed long and wide.
"I started playing more aggressive tennis and really went after my serve," said Morrissey. "I just wanted to keep the points short, stay and aggressive and do more with the serve and volley. This was a great match and the whole weekend was just phenomenal."
The afternoon contest was part of a stacked lineup for Cardinalpalooza, a free all-day sports festival that included six other Cardinal teams in action.
Stanford next hosts San Francisco on Tuesday at 4 p.m.