“Great tennis players win when they are not playing their best tennis.”
That came from the mouth of No. 75 UCSB men’s tennis Head Coach Marty Davis. Davis was referring to his team’s ability to win despite not playing well against Cal Poly.
Fortunately, neither Davis, nor anyone else associated with the Gaucho tennis program, had to worry about winning Tuesday at the RecCen Courts. Santa Barbara cut through Loyola Marymount like a hot knife through butter, dispatching the Lions 5-2 in what proved to be an exciting afternoon of tennis.
“We played really well and we competed well too,” Davis said of his team’s performance. “We have a bunch of winners on this year’s team. Every team match this year has been a must win, and they go out there under that type of pressure and they enjoy it.”
The Gauchos have done a good job of alleviating that pressure early on by securing the doubles point. UCSB has now won eight straight doubles points. The doubles point is awarded to the team that is able to win at least two of the three doubles matches. Senior co-captain Marcin Kosakowski and junior Carlos Palencia won their match 8-2, and sophomore Mike Placek and freshman Alex Anselme teamed up to win at the No. 2 doubles spot, easily winning by a score of 8-4.
Davis was pleased with the play of Placek, who was competing in his first match in several weeks after missing competition due to a sore back.
In the singles match, No. 62 Palencia continued to dominate, running his singles record for the season to 15-4 by winning a hard-fought match over LMU’s No. 1 player Tigran Martirosyan.
Palencia, still ranked No. 62 in the country, cannot afford to lose another match this season. The NCAA only invites 64 players to the National Championships and Palencia needs wins in the remaining matches to secure a position in the 64-man field.
“There was a lot of pressure today,” Palencia said. “In the first set I was kind of thinking about it, but then I put it out of my mind. I think it is good to play with that kind of pressure though. It makes you play better. I think about my ranking when I am off of the court, but when I get on the court, I just want to win no matter what.”
Santa Barbara has played in tremendous singles matches this year and Tuesday’s match was no different. In all, UCSB claimed four of the six matches, three of which came in straight set victories. The only Gaucho who went to three sets was Palencia.
Kosakowski won at the No. 2 spot by a score of 6-4, 7-6. Anselme won the No. 3 spot, 6-3, 6-2. Sophomore Alex Yaftali lost a disappointing match at the No. 4 position 3-6, 7-6, 4-6, and freshman Ilya Leshinsky also lost a heartbreaker, falling 5-7, 2-6. Senior co-captain Marcio Pepe finished out the afternoon with a great victory at No. 6 singles, winning 6-4, 6-3.
With only two regular season matches remaining, Santa Barbara has begun to turn its focus to the upcoming Big West Championships next weekend in Ojai. Three teams, UCSB, UCI and UOP, are all tied for the No. 1 seed. The final decision will be made during a conference call on Friday.
“We are right where we want to be heading into the conference championships,” Davis said. “The win against LMU sealed it for me, I think we should be the No. 1 seed in the tournament, but I am sure Irvine and UOP do too. Our character, and the way we are playing our best tennis heading into conference championships, it is ideal. We want to be playing our best tennis when it matters most and we are.”