It wasn’t a “tournament,” it wasn’t a “four-way,” and it wasn’t a “get together.” Call it what you want, but the bottom line is that when the UCSB men’s tennis team returned home Sunday night, it had added two wins to its season total.
The Gauchos, competing at the Nordstrom Tennis Center in Seattle, Wash., downed Gonzaga on Friday, dropped a match to No. 22 Washington on Saturday night, and then soundly defeated No. 72 Portland University on their way to the airport Sunday morning.
“This weekend was perfect,” UCSB Head Coach Marty Davis said. “Gonzaga wasn’t super strong, we played really well at doubles against Washington, and then most importantly, we knocked off Portland on a short turnaround.”
Santa Barbara broke into the win column this season with a rousing 7-0 thrashing of Gonzaga. The Gauchos won every single match they played, including the crucial doubles point. UCSB won every match in straight sets and no one allowed their opponent to take more than four games off of them.
“The win was expected,” senior co-captain Marcin Kosakowski said. “But it was a good tune-up for the next few matches. We adjusted to playing indoors and that helped us in the next two matches.”
If Gonzaga was a pushover, then Washington was the Great Wall of China. The No. 22 ranked team in the land showed why they are just that, as they handled the Gauchos at every spot except for No. 1 doubles, where Carlos Palencia and Kosakowski pulled off an improbable upset of Washington’s top doubles team. The 9-8 victory was not only impressive because of the caliber of the opponent, but Palencia and Kosakowski also had to battle a hostile Husky crowd.
Placencia played No. 1 singles against the Huskies after taking the Gonzaga match off, but his triumphant return was thwarted by No. 44 Matt Hanlin, 6-4, 6-2. Senior co-captain Marcio Pepe was able to extend his match into a third set, but he too was unable to emerge with a victory.
Sunday’s match against Portland University would prove to be the most difficult and most important match of the young season. It would prove to be the most difficult because the Gauchos stepped off the court against Washington at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday and had to be back on the court at 10:30 a.m. to face Portland. In addition, Santa Barbara has not notched a win against a ranked opponent in several years, and a win on Sunday would prove huge in the Gauchos’ bid to once again be ranked among the nation’s elite teams.
“Everyone knew that we had a golden opportunity to beat a good team,” Kosakowski said, “And we did it.”
Perhaps most important in UCSB’s 5-2 win was the doubles point. Although the Gauchos failed to win at #1 doubles again, this time it was No. 2 and No. 3 doubles coming through for the team. Alex Anselme and Mike Placek combined for a huge 8-3 victory that proved to be all the spark Santa Barbara would need.
“When we clinched the doubles point against Portland, that really got our momentum started,” Placek said. “Alex and I are getting more comfortable with each other. We are still trying to feel one another out.”
Also surprising for the Gauchos was the fact that they lost at No. 1 doubles, as well as No. 1 and No. 2 singles, yet still won the match.
“We can win matches up and down the line-up this year,” Davis said. “That is a big positive for our team this year.”