The UCSB men’s tennis team intends to play two crucial home matches this weekend, with the results directly influencing Santa Barbara’s seeding in the Big West Tournament.
The Gauchos will take on Irvine in an important Big West Conference match at 1 p.m. Friday before facing San Diego State in a nonconference match Sunday at noon. With its season coming to a climax, UCSB heads into this weekend with a keen awareness of the opportunity at hand.
“By beating [Irvine and San Diego State], we could be seeded second or third in the Big West Tournament,” sophomore Michael Faust said. “Right now, I think Irvine will be the biggest match of the season because it is such a big rivalry.”
Irvine has developed into a traditional rival for Santa Barbara, and because both UCSB and UCI are in the Big West Conference, every meeting between these two teams involves high stakes. Making this Friday’s match even more important is the lack of success the Gauchos have experienced against the Anteaters the past two seasons.
“This is my third year [at UCSB], and I’ve played [Irvine] twice and lost twice,” junior co-captain Marcio Pepe said. “It really hasn’t been fun.”
San Diego State will be coming to Santa Barbara on a streak of hot play, having recently won six straight matches. The Aztecs are undefeated in Mountain West Conference play and are currently the top team in that conference. San Diego State is led by sophomore Oliver Maiberger, who is the #22 singles player in the country. Despite the daunting opposition, junior co-captain Marcin Kosakowski believes the Gauchos will play well this weekend.
“We need these wins [against Irvine and San Diego State],” Kosakowski said. “It’s important for seeding in the [Big West Tournament] and for us to be confident.”
The significance of this weekend’s matches escapes no one on the UCSB men’s tennis team, and Pepe sees this weekend as a chance for Santa Barbara to display the kind of tennis it is capable of playing.
“It doesn’t matter how we do it, but we’re going to win,” Pepe said. “We want to win for ourselves, our coach and our school.”