Currently undefeated in conference play, the UCSB men’s tennis team will round out its Big West season with two final matches versus competitors Cal Poly and Hawai’i. The Gauchos’ 3-0 conference record contributes to their even more promising 12-6 overall standing. Cal Poly’s almost identical record threatens UC Santa Barbara’s spot in the number one seed of the Big West. Both statistically and chronologically, however, Hawai’i seems to be the secondary competitor.
The Rainbow Warriors sit two conference games behind SB, their season marked only by a singular loss in their Big West debut. Overall, the team sports a less than .500 winning percentage, tallying seven wins out of a total 17 games.
Regarding both doubles and singles records, the Gaucho roster statistically dominates that of the Rainbow Warriors. The Gauchos have seen ongoing success from their three most dominant pairings, which together have accumulated over half of the total wins this season.
Of these, junior-sophomore duo Joseph Guillin and Victor Krustev arguably contribute most consistently to this domination. The year-old pairing is the only one to see time in all three Big West matches, and if it weren’t for an intermittent loss in the non-conference match against No. 46 Cal Berkeley, the two would be handily sporting an 11-match win streak.
Nicolas Moreno de Alboran and Anders Holm pose a similar threat to the Rainbow Warriors. Both incredibly strong players on their own, the senior pairing exemplifies a vital combination of precision and experience. Earlier in the season, the co-captains defeated the No. 17 pairing in the country, Jacob Brumm and Yuta Kikuchi of Cal. Wins in the upcoming two games could push their win streak to six.
As singles players, the two seniors remain among the top three most consistent players the Gauchos have to offer.
A defending First Team All-Conference player — for singles and doubles — 2018 Big West Player of the Year and No. 6-ranked ITA Division I athlete, Moreno de Alboran brings measurable skill to the Gauchos’ roster. He currently leads his team in match victories, totaling 24 on the season, and even holds above a 0.500 winning percentage versus national players.
Holm will go into the weekend with six straight singles victories — five of which were two-game sweeps.
There is hardly a comparable duo or single on the opposing roster to those seen on Santa Barbara’s. In the last three matchups versus the Rainbow Warriors, the home team’s seemingly impenetrable lineup has swept its competitor 7-0.
Since last facing each other, however, Hawai’i has added a crucial player to its squad: freshman Andre Ilagan. In dual matches, the rookie tops his teammates by securing 11 wins and only five losses — the only player with an above .500 winning percentage. Earlier in the season, Ilagan was named Big West Conference Athlete of the Week.
With a much more seasoned Santa Barbara team, it should be interesting to see the route that Gaucho Head Coach Marty Davis takes when selecting a competitor for Ilagan.
UCSB must also look out for sophomore Blaz Seric, who as of two weeks ago was named BWC Player of the Week following outstanding performances against UC Davis, UC Irvine and UC Riverside. Seric finds himself on a hot streak that could be tough to break; for seven games now, the 6’7” standout has crushed his competition in both doubles and singles play.
Ultimately, the finale of the Gauchos’ Big West Conference play will depend both on their performance against Cal Poly and Hawai’i. Though traditionally Hawai’i has not been as intimidating a competitor as Cal Poly, the ‘Bows, as always, bring to the court players eager to win and boost their own conference status.
The UCSB men’s tennis team will face Hawai’i at home on Sunday, April 21, at 1 p.m., with the hopes of solidifying a No. 1 conference placement.