An unpredictable season of highs and lows concluded for the UCSB men’s tennis team at the Big West Tournament in Ojai this past weekend, where the Gauchos defeated Cal Poly 4-2 in the first round but fell to Irvine in the semifinals, 4-2.
Santa Barbara started strong against Cal Poly last Thursday, winning both doubles matches in convincing fashion. Junior co-captain Marcio Pepe and freshman Alex Yaftali defeated Mustang senior John Cappello and sophomore Brian Kent, 8-4. In the other doubles match, Senior David Angert and freshman Mike Placek defeated Cal Poly freshman Mike Marquez and Nick Carless, 8-2. UCSB then carried the momentum it built up in doubles play into singles action.
“After the doubles matches, [Head Coach Marty Davis] gave us a speech,” Pepe said. “I’ve never seen [Davis] so pumped up before. That really got me pumped up and ready to play.”
In singles play, Yaftali defeated Marquez in straight sets, 6-3, 7-6. Placek overwhelmed junior Erin Carroll in two sets, 6-1, 6-2. Pepe played extremely well against Capello, downing him in straight sets, 6-0, 6-1.
“Everybody was really focused and excited to play,” Placek said. “I could feel everybody else pumped up, and it helped me play really well. We were all pushing each other and yelling for each other.”
After their victory over Cal Poly in the first round, the Gauchos faced #1 seeded Irvine the next day. Santa Barbara started strong again, capturing the doubles point against Irvine by winning two of the three doubles matches played. Junior co-captain Marcin Kosakowski and sophomore J.J. Stewart defeated Irvine seniors Oliver Schweizer and David Mathews in a hard fought match, 9-7. Placek and Angert also won a close match, fending off sophomore Greg Bjorkman and freshman Wkwesi Williams, 9-7.
“After the doubles matches, we felt pretty good,” Placek said. “We had a slow start in the individual matches. I think that got our energy down.”
UCSB played the Anteaters close in singles action, but came up short in the end. Pepe continued his excellent play, defeating senior Chris Ma in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4. The other Gauchos, however, did not fair as well. UCI went on to win four of the five singles matchups played and advanced to the next round by downing Santa Barbara 4-2.
“We were very disappointed,” Kosakowski said. “I wish we could have done better, but I guess that’s the way it goes.”
UCSB’s loss to Irvine marked the end of the season for the Gauchos. Santa Barbara, however, is already looking forward to next year.
“I think we’re the team to beat in the Big West next year,” Pepe said. “The outlook is good.”