At the beginning of the season, UCSB men’s tennis head coach Marty Davis outlined his goal of winning every single home match of the season.
The team had accomplished that exact feat two seasons prior, and Davis thought accomplishing this would help his other main goal– finishing the season in the top 50.
On Friday, UCSB will have the chance to secure that unbeaten record at home when they take on a struggling UC Davis squad that has dropped three straight matches, including a conference loss to a depleted Hawaii squad.
The match will also serve as senior day for the Gauchos– and in particular, Senior captain Simon Freund, who is the only senior in the starting lineup at the moment. For the captain, the match will have an added importance, signifying his last match in front of his family and friends in his career.
“It’s starting to kick in more and more that I’m almost done– it’s really bittersweet,” Freund said. “I’ve had a great time, but I’m also kind of ready for the next part of my life.”
On paper, UC Davis looks like the clear underdog to the Gauchos. The Aggies are currently 0-8 on the road and have a combined 13-22 record on courts one and two in singles play.
With Junior Nicolas Moreno de Alboran and Sophomore Joseph Guillin currently dominating those positions, UC Davis will likely have to win on the lower courts in order to compete with a suddenly red-hot Gauchos squad that has won five straight matches.
If Davis is to have a chance, they will have to quell the home crowd by securing the doubles point. On the season. The Aggies’ doubles pairs have an overall record of 26-22, proving that they have the doubles talent to potentially keep up with Santa Barbara.
In addition, UC Davis will likely be motivated, knowing they need a victory against pre-season conference favorites UCSB in order to keep their title hopes alive.
Following that match, the Gauchos will drive down to Riverside to take on a Highlanders team on Sunday that has played much better tennis of late.
After starting the season 4-10, UC Riverside has won 11 of their last 15 matches, putting them above .500 on the season with a 15-14 record.
“Even though Riverside typically finishes towards the bottom of the Big West standings, we know we can’t take the match for granted,” Senior Chase Masciorini said. “Since we’re outside of the top 50 right now, we known we likely need to win the conference in order to go to the NCAA tournament.”
The match will also take on added importance for Masciorini– he is likely to start the six spot for the first time since getting injured at the end of last season.
If Masciorini can perform at the same level he did last season, the Gauchos will benefit from having a consistent veteran performer at the six spot, where they have struggled all season.
Similarly to the Aggies, the Highlanders also tend to play much stronger at the lower positions, which will prove to be a test of UCSB’s depth. UC Riverside is 16-10 at the five position and 20-6 at the six position, while they have a below .500 record at the top two positions.
In addition, despite their recent victory at No.50 LMU, UCSB has struggled on the road this season, coming into the match with a 3-6 record away from home.
If the Gauchos hope to keep pace with currently unbeaten Cal Poly, they will need to pick up both victories over the weekend and move to 4-0 in the conference.
UCSB will take on UC Davis on Friday at 1:30 p.m. at the rec cen courts, and will take on UC Riverside on Sunday at noon at Riverside.
Brandon Victor currently serves as the assistant sports editor. He has covered men’s tennis, men’s soccer and women’s basketball in his two years at the Daily Nexus.