The UCSB men’s tennis team heads to San Diego this weekend looking to acquire a key non-conference victory over USD, the four-time defending West Coast Conference champions and a team who ranked No. 47 at the end of last season.
The Toreros acquired one of the biggest wins in school history this year when they defeated No. 10 TCU 4-3 in Fort Worth just a couple weeks ago. That victory marked the first time since the school started keeping records in 2000 that USD defeated a top-ten opponent — an impressive feat considering they did so in front of a hostile environment.
After starting the season 2-0, USD dropped its last match in straight sets to No. 24 Duke 4-0 to put its overall record at 2-1. One of the other Torero victories came from another Big West opponent, UC Irvine, back on Jan. 18 by a final tally of 7-0.
“USD will likely pop up high in the first ITA ‘Computer’ rankings that will be released soon because of the win over No. 10 TCU and because they are a good, solid team, the best we’ve faced since USC and much stronger than the teams we beat this weekend,” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “Plus, it’s on the road where it’s always tougher to win.”
USD features a balanced team this season, led by sophomore Gui Osorio, who was named to the preseason All-WCC men’s tennis team. Osorio finished last season 16-8 in singles, playing mostly out of the No. 2 spot in the lineup.
This year, USD leans on him out of the No. 1 spot, and his matchup against Gaucho phenom Nicolas Moreno de Alboran will be key in determining the victor on Sunday. The junior UCSB athlete is currently 2-1 on the season with his only loss against No. 13 Brandon Holt.
But perhaps the best individual player for the Toreros this season has been sophomore Joel Gamerov, who acquired his first top-25 victory in his career in the match against TCU. Gamerov is building on the success he had in his freshman year, as he finished last season with a 23-11 record in singles.
Even the lower spots have stepped up so far for USD this season as freshman David Norfeldt was undefeated before his loss to Duke.
“This will be a great challenge for us and an extremely important match for our national ranking,” Davis said. “We don’t have that many looks at quality top teams in the top 50 this season, so this is an opportunity we need to cash in to achieve our ranking goals for the season.”
Coming off of two strong performances this past weekend, UCSB will need to ride that momentum in order to compete with the depth and skill of the Toreros.
In their match on Friday, the Gauchos were able to take out an overmatched San Diego State team, 6-1. They then followed that up on Saturday with an impressive 6-1 victory over previously undefeated Fresno State.
Once again, the Gauchos’ depth proved to be one of their key assets. Sophomore Joseph Guillin and freshman Victor Krustev continue to play well in their singles matches, and the duo came back from their doubles loss on Friday with a dominant victory in Saturday’s match.
“I feel good about how we played over the weekend,” Davis said. “We especially were able to make some helpful adjustments at No. 3 doubles.”
UCSB will need to be at their best when they take on the Toreros at 12 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 11 at the Skip and Cindy Hogan Tennis Center.