The UCSB men’s tennis team’s season ended in defeat on Friday afternoon at the hands of rival school Cal Poly in the semifinals of the Big West Championships. The Gauchos lost 4-0 and they ended their season with a 9-14 record.
Santa Barbara entered the Big West Championships as the No. 3 seed and played No. 6 seed UC Riverside on Thursday morning in the quarterfinals. The Gauchos, playing without team No. 1 junior Tobias Galskov, took down the Highlanders 4-2. UCSB dominated in doubles as junior Ziad Sultan and senior Sasha Gryaznov won 8-0 over freshmen Michael Carella and Cooper Bridge, while freshman Teague Hamilton and sophomore Andrew Riminton defeated juniors Luis Gastao and Sean Robles 8-1 at No. 3 doubles. The No. 2 doubles team of freshman Erik Johnsson and junior Miles Seemann were up 7-4 against sophomores Jack Felich and Julian Ruffin but play ended once the other two matches finished.
In singles, Hamilton and Johnsson led the team with two quick victories as Hamilton defeated Ruffin 6-1, 6-2 at No. 4 singles and Johnsson beat Felich 6-0, 6-1 at No. 3 singles. Needing only one more victory to seal the match, freshman Luke Steeb came up clutch in his first ever dual match by defeating junior Sina Sharifi 6-4, 7-5 to clinch the 4-2 win for the Gauchos.
Friday morning’s subsequent match did not go as well for the Gauchos. Still without Galskov, the Gauchos dropped the doubles point by losing two doubles matches and winning one. Johnsson and Seemann defeated their opponents, junior Devin Barber and freshman Corey Pang, 8-5, but the Gauchos could not take the point as they lost at No. 1 and No. 3 doubles.
“Losing the doubles point left us really screwed for the rest of the match,” Hamilton said. “I’m confident we would have taken the match if we had won the doubles point to start.”
The Gauchos fared no better in singles, and they were not able to rebound from their loss to Cal Poly the previous weekend. Sultan lost in his rematch with freshman Ben Donovan 6-1, 6-2, whereas he had won last week. Johnsson lost to senior Jurgen De Jager 6-1, 6-3, and Steeb fell to junior Naveen Beasley 6-1, 6-4. This loss knocked the Gauchos out of the conference tournament and thus ended their season.
Looking back, the Gauchos caught some bad breaks which haunted them throughout the season. UCSB lost eight 4-3 decisions over the course of the season and could have improved its chances of making it to the NCAA tournament if a few of those matches had gone its way. Then, for the biggest tournament of the season, the team’s star and most victorious player, Galskov, fell ill and was not able to play.
“We’re a young team. We had a lot of unfortunate matches over the season as a whole and the bad losses at the start of the season definitely had an impact on us for the rest of the spring,” Hamilton said. “It was tough not having Toby this weekend but we couldn’t do anything about it and in the end we didn’t win the matches we had to.”
The Gauchos now look forward to next season where they will return the entire current squad, except graduating senior Gryaznov. With the experience the younger players got this season, the team is very optimistic for next year.
“I’m really confident in our team doing well next year,” Hamilton said. “We’ve got the same team coming back save one guy and we expect to build off what we did this year for next year.”
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.