Each season brings an optimism that everyone can feel, and the level of excitement surrounding this year’s UCSB men’s tennis team is one that has not been felt in years.
“This year we want to win the Big West and move back into the national rankings,” UCSB Head Coach Marty Davis said about his experienced squad. “Our team chemistry is really good, we played better in our Fall tournaments than in recent years, and we have brought in a No. 1 player and that will help our team from the top down.”
Not only does this year’s squad return five players, it is also blessed by the addition of two players who come qualified with amazing credentials.
The returnees are led by senior co-captains Marcin Kowsakowski and Marcio Pepe. Both players had outstanding junior campaigns last year, and there is no reason to believe that this year will be any different. Also returning for the Gauchos are sophomores Mike Placek and Alex Yaftali. Rounding out the list of returning players is sophomore doubles specialist Jerome Chan.
UCSB has never been far behind on the curve when it comes to talent from other countries, but this season’s newest acquisition may prove to be the best yet. Carlos Palencia, a 20-year-old junior from Cordoba, Mexico, will most likely be playing in the No. 1 spot all season long. The three-time Mexican Junior National Champion has posted some impressive victories already this season, defeating the No. 26 ranked player in country during the Fall pre-season, and then dropping the No. 19 seed on the road at UCLA in the season opener last week.
Filling out the team will be freshman Alex Anselme from Santa Monica. Although he has been at UCSB for less than 4 months, the newcomer has an impressive resume that includes a No. 1 junior ranking in southern California, and No. 8 in the nation last year.
” … we have our deepest team that we have had in four years,” Pepe said. “Everyone gets along really well.”
Last Wednesday the Gauchos finally got a chance to put their preparation to the test when they traveled down to Los Angeles to square off with the No. 3 Bruins for their season opener. UCSB was not as sharp as it had hoped to be, and fell to a 6-1 defeat. Although the team lost convincingly, it is impossible for one not to get excited about the way Palencia thoroughly dominated his opponent. Palencia manhandled No. 19 Julian Rojer, walking away almost without breaking a sweat in a 6-1, 6-2 victory.
Placek and Anselme were both able to take sets off of their opponents, but neither the No. 3 nor No. 4 player for the Gauchos was able to pull out a victory.
“I think that we did very good,” Palencia said of the whole team performance. “They are probably the best team in the nation, so to know that we can compete well against them will give us so much confidence.”
Santa Barbara will continue its season when it travels to Seattle this weekend for a three-match extravaganza against Gonzaga, Washington, and Portland.