With its position atop the Big West on the line last weekend in San Luis Obispo, the No. 75 UCSB men’s tennis team played the way it needed to.
The Gauchos defeated Cal Poly 6-1 to remain in a three-way tie for first place in the Big West Conference. Santa Barbara continued its drive for a bid to the National Championships with the victory.
“Our guys didn’t play as well as we could have this weekend,” UCSB Head Coach Marty Davis said. “But we competed really well. It’s nice to know that we now have a plan B. Great tennis players win when they are not playing their best tennis, and that is what we did this weekend.”
Santa Barbara is currently in a three-way tie for first place in the Big West with the University of the Pacific and Irvine. With Big West play wrapped up, the top seed will be determined by a tiebreaker later this week.
Although the Gauchos (10-9 overall, 4-1 in the Big West) handled the Mustangs with relative ease, the match was much closer than the final score indicated. Santa Barbara took the upper hand early on in the match by securing the doubles point behind yet another win at No. 1 doubles from junior Carlos Palencia and senior co-captain Marcin Kosakowski. The duo defeated their Mustang opponents Mike Marquez and Greg Levy 8-6. At No. 2 for doubles, freshmen Alex Anselme and Ilya Leshinsky easily disposed of Erin Carroll and Nick Tracy, 8-4.
The doubles point, which was a large source of trouble last year, has been huge for Santa Barbara lately. The Gauchos have dominated doubles action and have won the point in all of their last six matches.
“Going up one love gives you confidence,” Kosakowski said of the first point awarded in the match. “Knowing that you only have to win three of the six singles matches, it just takes a lot of pressure off. Holding serve is so crucial in doubles, and everyone is serving better recently and that is the difference in why we are winning so much.”
The Gauchos were equally as dominant in the singles competition, as they lost only one of their six matches. Nick Tracy was the only Mustang who was able to win his match at the No. 4 spot as he defeated senior co-captain Marcio Pepe 6-3, 6-2.
The Mustangs did their best against the Gauchos forcing three matches to three sets, but it was not enough. Cal Poly senior Erin Carroll, playing in his final home match, fell to sophomore Alex Yaftali 6-3, 4-6, 7-6, after battling back from dropping the first set. Carroll served for the match in the third, but Yaftali proved to be too tough in the end and emerged with a 7-4 victory in the tiebreaker.
Freshman Ilya Leshinsky lost his first set 6-3 at the No. 6 spot against Mustang sophomore Greg Levy, but rebounded to claim the next two, 7-6, 6-3.
Carlos Palencia, who remains the No. 62 in the country, defeated Cal Poly’s Mike Marquez 6-3, 6-2 at No. 1 while Marcin Kosakowski rolled to a 6-3, 6-2 win over the Mustangs’ Stacy Meronoff.
“All we want on Tuesday is a win,” Davis said of their upcoming match with Loyola Marymount on Tuesday at the RecCen Courts. “They are a very good team with a lot of good players in their top four spots. They struggled early this season because of injuries, but they are healthy now and it should be a very tough challenge for us.”