Despite facing a torturous back-to-back matchup to open its season — the preseason #61 Gauchos were pitted against #21 Pepperdine and #6 UCLA — UCSB’s schedule doesn’t lighten up yet as they travel to Florida to take part in the kickoff weekend of the National Team Indoor Championships.
[media-credit name=”Daily Nexus File Photo” align=”alignleft” width=”167″][/media-credit] UCSB opens up the regional tournament, one of 15 across the nation, against the #7 Florida Gators on Friday morning. Two other teams, Troy and North Carolina State, round out the participants in Florida. This weekend’s winner travels to the ITA National Indoors in Seattle, which take place on Feb. 18-21. Coming off a pair off losses to some of the nation’s best, Head Coach Marty Davis’ squad will look to regain some confidence.
“I don’t think we’re rattled just yet,” Davis said. “But it would be nice to get a win on the board this weekend, that’s for sure. It’s an intimidating environment. It’ll be exciting and fun but a huge challenge.”
Against Pepperdine, UCSB was unable to win a match despite forcing six tiebreakers. Senior Alex Konigsfeldt pushed his singles match against #14 Sebastian Fanselow to a third set before losing 6-4, 5-7, 6-4. The squad had more trouble on the road versus the Bruins, but sophomore Benjamin Recknagel managed to take #86 Amit Inbar to a third set before the overall match was decided, cutting their match short.
“I don’t think we played badly, they were just better,” Davis said. “I’m happy with [Recknagel’s and Konigsfeldt’s] play, and happy with Mathieu Forget’s as well. All three of them have played well, but nobody on the team has won yet.”
The Gauchos will also rely on senior Phil Therp, who is still working on making a full comeback after two hip surgeries.
“Phil has shown some glimpses of himself, so I’m really hoping he can get it going this weekend,” Davis said. “We’re going to need him this season if we’re going to be successful.”
This weekend, UCSB will look to jump on the Gators early, but Florida boasts one of the strongest lineups in the nation. Senior Alexandre Lacroix is ranked fourth nationally in singles, and pairs up with Nassim Slilam to form the #11 doubles team. The squad is rounded out with #28 Sekou Bangoura Jr. and #52 Bob van Overbeek. For the Gauchos to give the Gators a run for their money, the team will have to look to its experience playing against good teams.
“We play UC Santa Barbara first, and they’ve obviously done a good job preparing to come to Florida,” Florida Head Coach Andy Jackson told Florida Athletics. “When they play us, it’ll be the third time they’ve played one of the best teams in the country on the road. So it’s going to be really important that we’re focused and sharp for that first one on Friday morning, and hopefully we’ll have some success.”
Play kicks off today at 10 a.m. The winners of Friday’s matches will move on to play on Saturday at 1 p.m. before the two losing squads face off in a consolation match on Saturday afternoon.