Despite finishing this season with a disappointing 5-16 record, the UCSB men’s tennis team is still confident it can perform well at the Big West Conference Tournament this weekend.
The Gauchos will face Cal Poly in the first round of the tournament Thursday at the Ojai Valley Athletic Club in Ojai, California. Santa Barbara is looking forward to this matchup with extra excitement after losing to the Mustangs in the season finale a week ago.
“We want revenge,” junior co-captain Marcio Pepe said. “Playing [Cal Poly] again should be a lot of fun.”
UCSB has been working especially hard this past week in preparation for the tournament. After a difficult season in which the Gauchos finished 1-3 against Big West teams, practice for Ojai this week became very important.
“We’ve been playing lots of practice sets,” senior David Angert said. “We’ve been getting mentally prepared too. Everybody is excited. We’re a little nervous too, but fired up to play.”
UCSB added a new dimension to practice recently.
“We’ve been doing visualization,” Pepe said. “We haven’t ever done it before. We try to picture ourselves winning and build up our energy.”
Santa Barbara has also been working hard on its conditioning this past week. Junior co-captain Marcin Kosakowski believes UCSB is the best-conditioned team in the Big West.
“Our fitness should help us [at the Big West Tournament],” Kosakowski said. “We’ve been working really hard at it.”
Angert thinks that conditioning will be a big advantage for the Gauchos when they face Cal Poly on Thursday.
“We’re in better shape for sure,” Angert said. “We’re all actually hoping for really hot weather.”
Santa Barbara’s match with Poly will begin at 8 in the morning Thursday. UCSB is the fifth seed in the tournament. Cal Poly is the fourth seed. The Mustangs are led by senior Brandon Fallon, who along with junior Erin Carroll pace Cal Poly’s top doubles team. Poly finished the year with a 10-10 record overall and a 2-1 mark against Big West foes.
“[Cal Poly] is a really feisty team,” Angert said. “They come fired up. They yell a lot and get in your face. I think we’re a better team. We just have to go out there and prove it and fight.”
Should the Gauchos advance past the Mustangs into the second round, they would face Irvine in another rematch from UCSB’s regular season. The Anteaters are the #1 seed in the tournament and will have the advantage of a first round bye. Santa Barbara is, however, more focused on playing well in the game at hand.
“We just lost to [Cal Poly] in our last match,” Pepe said. “We need to come together as a team. We need more energy. We need to scream for our teammates. We need to be tougher than [Cal Poly].”