So it may not have been the same as winning back-to-back Australian Opens, but it was as close as the No. 74 UCSB men’s tennis team is going to get this year.
The Gauchos blanked Northern Arizona on Saturday, but knew that the real challenge would come the following day. On Sunday, UCSB took aim at No. 41 University of Arizona and Steven Capriati, World No. 1 Jennifer Capriati’s little brother.
Although Santa Barbara lost a close contest with the Wildcats 5-2, junior Carlos Palencia, currently ranked No. 76 in the country, defeated No. 68 ranked Capriati, 7-5, 6-3.
“[Steven] actually plays a lot like Jennifer,” UCSB Head Coach Marty Davis said. “He is a real big kid, hits the ball hard. It was a big-time tennis match. They were both hitting some huge shots. But in the end I think that Carlos just beat him with his feet.”
Despite the win against Capriati, the Gauchos feel a little disappointed after their loss to Arizona.
“Arizona was a big opportunity for us,” senior co-captain Marcio Pepe said. “I really don’t think that they are better than us. We played bad at No. 1 and No. 3 doubles, and that would have been another point for us. I should have won my match and that would have been another point. If we would play them 10 times, I think we would beat them eight of those times.”
Possibly the most disappointing match of the competition was the No. 1 doubles match that Marcin Kosakowski and Palencia played against Arizona’s Capriati and Carl Hagman. Santa Barbara led 5-1 in the tiebreaker, yet eventually lost 9-8. The loss set a bad tone that resonated with UCSB for the rest of the afternoon.
The weekend was not just all Capriati and Arizona, however. On Saturday the Gauchos throttled Northern Arizona, dismissing them 7-0. Santa Barbara played well at each position, with only the one match being extended to a third-set tiebreaker. Despite the apparent domination, UCSB was not satisfied with its effort.
“I think we took them a little bit lightly,” Pepe said. “They competed well at every position, but we should have played a lot better.”
Two of the reasons the Gauchos may have started their weekend a little flat were the altitude and windy conditions that plagued UCSB all weekend long.
“The altitude and wind made it really tough to play,” Pepe said. “The last time we played was indoors in artificial conditions. These conditions were much more difficult.”
In addition to Palencia, playing well for the Gauchos this weekend was sophomore Alex Yaftali. Yaftali is playing in the No. 5 slot for Santa Barbara, and this weekend he won both of his matches in the singles, as well as one in the doubles.