It was an up-and-down 2013 season for the UCSB men’s tennis team.
After losing three matches in a row to end the season and five out of their last six, the Gauchos found their form at the perfect time and ended up winning the Big West Championship to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. However, they were ultimately defeated in the first round by No. 11-seed Pepperdine.
“We were a little bit disappointed,” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “It was a big deal winning the Big West title, but the conference season wasn’t what we wanted it to be.”
Part of this inconsistency was due to a rash of injuries suffered by the Gauchos throughout the season. UCSB’s No. 1, 2 and 3 were all out at various times throughout the 2013 campaign.
As a result, Davis’ main objective in recruiting was to improve the depth of the squad.
“This incoming recruiting class is the biggest we’ve ever had,” Davis said. “We have six guys coming in, which is unusual. We usually only recruit three, but there were a couple of guys we couldn’t say no to.”
One player who is expected to contribute immediately is Filip Karlsson, a 19-year-old from Sweden. Karlsson is currently the No. 5-ranked player in Sweden and recently earned an ATP World Tour Singles Ranking.
“He’s the best guy on paper,” Davis said.
Karlsson is one of three Scandinavian players in the 2013 recruiting class, and he will be joined by another highly rated Swede, No. 12 ranked Erik Johnsson.
Davis was also able to secure the top community college player in California from last season, Tobias Galskov. Born in Denmark, Galskov played at Foothill Community College, where he won the junior college state singles competition in addition to earning his AA degree.
One player who Davis is extremely excited about is Teague Hamilton, an incoming freshman from Laguna Beach.
“He’s a diamond in the rough,” Davis said. “He’s on the surf team and is super coordinated. He went from 200 plus in the junior rankings to the top 100; he’s coming on fast.”
Rounding out the recruiting class are more developmental prospects in Luke Steeb and Corey Karen. Steeb is the son of Carl Uwe-Steeb, a German tennis star who at one point was ranked No. 14 in the world.
“We have three super solid returning guys, and then all of the newcomers,” Davis said. “Competition for playing time is going to be intense; all in all, there will be 14 guys on the roster.”
With so many talented players incoming, as well as proven performers like sophomores Axel Bouillin and Ziad Sultan, Davis is very optimistic for UCSB’s 2014 season.
“We win the Big West title more often than not,” Davis said. “We fully expect to win the Big West again this year, and our short-term goal is to get in the top 40, which will give us an automatic NCAA tournament bid. Our long term goal is to get back to the Sweet 16.”
It remains to be seen whether or not the Gauchos can achieve the lofty goals set by their head coach. However, the returning players from last season combined with one of the program’s best recruiting classes, they certainly have a realistic chance.
This article is an online exclusive and did not appear in the print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo courtesy of The Big West Conference.