The UCSB men’s tennis team’s Cinderella run to the NCAA tournament ended on Saturday as it was beaten 4-0 by the No. 11 seeded Pepperdine Waves in the first round of the tournament.
It was a difficult matchup for the Gauchos, as the Waves had only lost five matches all season and boasted four nationally ranked players, including No. 11 Sebastian Faneslow.
Pepperdine got off to an early lead in doubles as Finn Tearney and Alex Sarkissian defeated senior Benjamin Recknagel and junior Axel Bouillin 8-2. The Waves then clinched the doubles point shortly thereafter when Mousheg Hovhannisyan and David Sofaer beat the duo of sophomore Miles Seemann and freshman Andrew Riminton.
Riminton and Seemann were almost able to pull a spectacular comeback after getting down early 6-1. They battled and got the match to 7-5 but ultimately lost 8-5, giving the Waves an early 1-0 lead.
UCSB did not fare much better in singles play, as Pepperdine won the first set in all six singles matches.
Senior Mbonisi Ndimande had the unenviable task of being matched up against Faneslow, one of the top players in the country. Faneslow showed why he is so highly rated by sweeping Ndimande 6-0, 6-0 and putting Pepperdine up 2-0.
Not long after the first singles match ended, No. 102 ranked Francis Alcantara took down sophomore Ziad Sultan in straight sets 6-1, 6-3.
Alcantara’s win put the Waves up 3-0 and pushed the Gauchos to the brink of elimination. At that point, the Gauchos would have needed to win all the remaining singles matches to advance in the tournament.
Unfortunately for UCSB, that was not the case. No. 107 ranked Tearney defeated Bouillin 6-4, 6-0 as the Waves eliminated the Gauchos in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The loss ended what had been an amazing postseason run by the Gauchos, who appeared to be faltering at the end of the regular season. After losing three matches in a row and five out of six, UCSB entered the Big West Tournament as the No. 5 seed.
However, once the Big West Tournament began, the Gauchos’ fortunes seemed to change. UCSB knocked off No. 4 seeded Hawaii in the first round before facing the highly favored No. 1 seeded UC Irvine Anteaters in the conference semi-finals.
The Gauchos defied the odds by defeating UC Irvine 4-1 to advance to the conference finals against Pacific. The Gauchos then proceeded to take down the Tigers to earn their first Big West title and NCAA tournament berth since 2009. It was the tenth time the Gauchos appeared in the NCAA tournament and seventh under current Head Coach Marty Davis.
The Gauchos will lose the services of Recknagel and Ndimande next season, though a number of top players from this season will be returning next year, including key performers Sultan, Bouillin and junior Sasha Gryaznov.
In addition, underclassmen Seemann, Riminton and freshman Jacob Johnson all received valuable experience that will be vital for the 2014 season.
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of May 13th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Kenneth Song of the Daily Nexus.