For the second straight year, the UCSB men’s tennis team will bring in a highly touted “blue chip” recruit from California: Matthew Alves from Gold River, who has been ranked as high as No. 19 in the country among high school seniors by tennisrecuiting.net. Alves has won several national junior events and will look to make a big impact on the program next season.
After bringing in the No. 24 recruiting class in the nation and No. 1 mid-major class last year to go from a 10-15 record in 2011 to 14-10 and a second-place finish in the Big West this year, the Gauchos hope Alves and fellow recruit Jacob Johnson will help the team take another step forward as they make up the No. 21 recruiting class of 2012.
“Even though we’ve only signed two recruits so far, this class is considered even stronger and makes it back-to-back best recruiting classes we’ve had, so things are looking pretty good,” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “We are thinking about adding another transfer maybe, because it’s still a small recruiting class right now. The idea is three each year.”
The Gauchos will have to move on without graduating senior Mathieu Forget, who finished the year in the national rankings, and freshman Mons Knudtzon, who is transferring.
“To lose the No. 1 player is always tough,” Davis said. “And Mons is transferring to Stony Brook, so we’d like to add somebody else in the next couple of months to get to more than 10 [on our roster].”
Johnson is a four-star recruit from Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., and brother of current Gaucho, junior Alex Johnson, who predominantly played on the No. 2 doubles team this year.
“Alex was undefeated in doubles season,” Davis said. “His little brother just made finals of the Ojai Championships, the biggest tournament in Southern California, so we’re looking at what could be a strong doubles team.”
Benjamin Recknagel and Mbonisi Ndimande, the Gauchos’ top two returnees, will both bring senior leadership to this young squad. However, Alves and Johnson will definitely need to excel on the court right away if freshman Greg Scott, the Gauchos’ blue chip recruit from last year, does not fully recover from his shoulder injury in the offseason.
“Scott is getting another MRI on his shoulder this week, which is pretty nerve-wracking and the biggest question for us now,” Davis said. “[Freshman] Ziad Sultan is the most improved player though, and he could play pretty high, too.”
After signing two international players last year, Santa Barbara’s recruiting class, consisting of players coming from California, marks a return to the more common recruiting strategy for the team.
“It’s awesome for us to get top California talent,” Davis said. “We’re fighting for in-state scholarships, and it’s twice as expensive for out-of-state kids to come here. We recruit California first for sure, and depending on how successful we are, we look out of state … but it’s a great value for Californians.”