The UCSB men’s tennis team will finish up its 2016-17 preseason this weekend at the Kramer Club Invitational in Los Angeles, and it will come into the regular season ranked No. 44 in the latest National College Tennis rankings, the highest mark of any Big West team.
The Gauchos will look to win their third consecutive Big West Championship this year after defeating rival Cal Poly in the tournament’s final game last year.
Santa Barbara’s 2015-16 campaign ended in the first round of the NCAA tournament with a 4-1 loss to Georgia Tech. The loss concluded an otherwise successful season, in which the Gauchos finished 17-7 overall and 5-0 in conference play.
Although conference play and making the tournament is one of the team’s main priorities, the Gauchos are also focused on going farther into the postseason this upcoming season.
“Obviously, the [Big West championship] three-peat is in the front of our minds, but we’ve lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament two years in a row and we’re very sick of that,” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “At this point, dominating the conference isn’t enough for us; we’re now looking to go further.”
However, that’s not to say the Gauchos are overlooking their conference opponents. Davis was quick to point out the stellar lineups of conference rivals UC Davis and Cal Poly.
“[UC Davis and Cal Poly] both have seniors in the top three positions of their lineups, they’re both veteran squads and they’re both ranked nationally,” Davis said. “We may be the highest ranked overall team in the conference, but Cal Poly has the highest ranked doubles team in Corey Pang and Ben Donovan, and UC Davis has the highest ranked individual player in Alec Adamson.”
In NCAA men’s tennis, matches are recorded on a seven-point system. Each team plays three doubles matches, and the team that wins the majority of those gains one point, called the double point. Then there are six singles matches, worth one point each.
Nonetheless, a primary focus for the coaching staff this year is to perform well in the doubles matches, even if they may be worth only 1/7 of the total match.
“Winning the double point is important because it sets the tone for the rest of the match and can carry a lot of momentum,” Davis said. “One of our main keys to our success last year was that we won our doubles point in 74 percent of our matches, and we’ve found that we win about 90 percent of the matches in which we win the double point.”
Fortunately, the Gauchos return with one of the best doubles duos in the nation: senior captain Morgan Mays and junior Simon Freund.
Mays and Freund made it to the quarterfinals of the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships this last week, defeating the No. 1 nationally ranked doubles team in the nation before losing in the quarterfinals.
Mays will play a vital part as captain for the team this winter.
“Morgan has phenomenal leadership and is likely to end up ranked nationally in both doubles and singles,” Davis said. “He is by far the best captain I’ve ever had in my 18 years of coaching here.”
The Gauchos will begin their 2016-17 season against San Diego State in Honolulu on Saturday, Jan. 14 at 3 p.m. UCSB will play its first conference match at Hawaii the following day, Sunday, Jan. 15 at noon.