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The Big West title run continues on Saturday for the UCSB men’s tennis team as the Gauchos take on Cal Poly in a battle between conference rivals, which could have a large impact on both teams’ seeding in the upcoming end-of-the-season Big West Tournament.
The Gauchos enter the match with an 8-12 overall record, yet are undefeated in conference play at 3-0. Their two most recent wins have been against conference foes UC Riverside and UC Davis with scores of 7-0 and 5-2, respectively. With a win over Cal Poly, the Gauchos can take the No. 1 seed going into the Big West tournament next weekend at Indian Wells. Cal Poly is 8-12 overall as well, and 3-1 in conference play.
“Other schools view us as a favorite [to win the Big West] and they have been adjusting lineups to stack up against our lineup,” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “We have a great lineup which I am not planning on changing, so it’s up to our guys to be prepared for what the other team puts up against us.”
The team has improved much over the course of the season with its most notable development coming in doubles play as Davis put his top two players together in juniors Tobias Galskov and Ziad Sultan. Galskov and Sultan are 7-2 this season playing together in doubles, and this change in partnerships has seen the Gauchos win the doubles point on many more occasions since the switch in the lineup.
“Our doubles play has gotten progressively better over the course of the season,” Davis said. “Having our top two guys playing at No. 1 gives us a lot of confidence to win the top doubles match and thus secure the doubles point.”
UCSB’s No. 3 doubles team made up of freshman Teague Hamilton and sophomore Andrew Riminton has also impressed this season, as together, the two lower-classmen have won 10 matches together.
“I expect Cal Poly to play really hard in doubles,” Davis said. “They play aggressive, and I will be really pleased to get the doubles point this weekend.”
In singles, Galskov will lead the Gauchos playing at No. 1 with his team-leading 14 dual match victories. Following right behind him will be Sultan, who has won his last two matches and nine overall. Near the bottom of the lineup, the Gauchos can expect a strong performance from Hamilton, playing at No. 5, who has won 14 matches this season.
“Our team is hungry for victory this weekend,” Davis said. “The guys know what is at stake, and they are looking forward to this important match.”
Looking at Cal Poly’s lineup, the Mustangs will be led by freshman Ben Donovan at the No. 1 spot. Donovan won the Big West Men’s Tennis Athlete of the Week on Wednesday after enjoying a week where he won two matches, one over freshman Alec Adamson of UC Davis 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, and another against Stanford as he defeated senior Daniel Ho 6-3, 6-2.
Following Donovan in the lineup will be senior Marco Comuzzo at the No. 2 position with his eight dual match wins this season and senior Jurgen De Jager and his 10-1 record from the No. 3 position. The team’s top doubles team will consist of Comuzzo and senior Matt Thompson as together they lead the team with eight doubles victories.
“I expect it to be a circus up at Cal Poly on Saturday,” Davis said. “The hostile environment will be both fun and challenging. I want our guys to get on the court and let the scoreboard do the talking.”
The Gauchos will leave Santa Barbara on Friday in order to get some practice on the Cal Poly courts and to mentally prepare for what will surely be a difficult environment to play in against UCSB’s rival school. The match begins at 1 p.m. as the Gauchos hope to silence the crowds with their play on the courts.
This article is an online exclusive and did not appear in the print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Kenneth Song of The Daily Nexus.