To say that the No. 60 UCSB men’s tennis team had a good year would be a vast understatement.
The Gauchos realized both of their preseason goals by moving back into the national rankings and winning the Big West. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, yet Saturday afternoon’s first round NCAA match-up against No. 4 UCLA was not the end that anyone expected.
A season marked by team cohesion came to close the same way it started: at the hands of a powerful Bruin squad. Santa Barbara fell 4-0 in Los Angeles Saturday afternoon.
“We had a lot of factors against us,” freshman Alex Anselme said of the match. “Sometimes, you just have to be realistic.”
UCSB got off on the wrong foot early, dropping the doubles point they considered valuable.
On the Wednesday before the match, UCSB Head Coach Marty Davis said, “if we can get the doubles point and get off to a good start then we might win. We have been playing great doubles, and if we can get our teeth into this match, we will be tough to shake.”
Santa Barbara never had a chance to clench its jaws, losing both the first and third doubles matches. Freshman Alex Anselme and sophomore Mike Placek were unable to get anything started, losing their match 8-3. Freshman Ilya Leshinsky and senior co-captain Marcio Pepe also lost 8-3, leaving the dynamic duo of junior Carlos Palencia and senior co-captain Marcin Kosakowski to have their match suspended.
“We knew that if we could have won that doubles point then we would have a good chance of winning,” Palencia said. “But even though we didn’t win it, we still felt like we had a good chance to win the match.”
After dropping the doubles point, Santa Barbara faced an uphill task. Sophomore Alex Yaftali and Anselme both promptly lost their singles matches by respective scores of 6-2, 6-0 and 6-0, 6-1. Placek lost the final point 6-1, 6-3 and the Gauchos’ big guns never even got a chance to make an impact on the match.
Palencia, Kosakowski, and Pepe, the three most experienced players on the roster, only had one of their five matches scored for a point. This may have been a large disadvantage for Santa Barbara due to the fact that since the Gauchos cruised through the Big West tournament with such ease, neither Leshinsky, Yaftali, or Anselme had played a singles point that counted towards the final score in almost one month.
“I don’t think that it hurt us that much,” Palencia said. “The match was pretty much decided when it ended anyways, but we were still fighting. At least we know that we gave it everything that we could and we left everything out on the court.”
The Bruins gutted out their impressive victory without the services of their No. 1 player, Tobias Clemens. Clemens was a late scratch from action, and it forced every player in the Los Angeles rotation up a spot.
No matter how disappointed the Gauchos might be with their final match, they are still positive about the goals they accomplished this season.
“This was a very good start for our tennis program,” Pepe said. “Overall this was a very successful season for us and I think Coach Davis has us pointed in the right direction.”