Facing dual matches against the University of Portland and the University of Oregon, the UCSB men’s tennis team saw its aspirations of national recognition put to a stiff test throughout its road trip to Eugene, Ore., last weekend.
On Saturday, Santa Barbara celebrated a come-from-behind victory against Portland. After losing the doubles point, the Gauchos won four of the six singles matches to secure a close 4-3 victory over the Pilots.
With their convincing wins at the #1 and #2 singles spots, senior Carlos Palencia – a native of Cordoba, Mexico – and freshman diaper dandy Mirco Schwindt – from Saarbruecken, Germany – set the tone for Santa Barbara on the singles court. Palencia, last year’s Big West Player of the Year, dispatched Peter Malacek, currently ranked #111 in the nation, 6-4, 6-2 while a baseline bomb-launching Schwindt posted a 6-4, 6-2 victory.
“Mirco and Carlos played really well,” freshman Michael Frick said. “They really brought the momentum to our side after we lost the doubles.”
Santa Barbara’s dominating singles performance certainly caught the eye of Portland Head Coach Aaron Gross, who confirmed Frick’s sentiments.
“UCSB seemed to come out with more fight in the singles,” Gross said.
On Sunday, Santa Barbara couldn’t continue the same magic against Oregon.
The Gauchos suffered a 6-1 defeat at the hands of the #66 Ducks but offered more competition than the unequal score may have indicated.
After an inefficient doubles performance, in which only the #2 tandem comprised of sophomore Alex Anselme and junior Mike Placek had a legitimate chance of winning, the Gauchos lost three of five singles matches in heartbreaking fashion. Placek and freshman Nick Brotman each forfeited their matches 7-6, 7-6 – the closest possible two-set score – against Thomas Bieri and Jason Menke, respectively. Anselme suffered a hard fought 1-6, 6-2, 2-6 loss at the hands of the Sven Swinnen, a native of Switzerland.
Palencia crowned his impressive performance over the course of the weekend with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory against Oregon’s #1 player from Switzerland, Manuel Kost, who holds a #64 national ranking. Winning a match against such a highly revered player, Palencia increased his likelihood of receiving a NCAA Singles Tournament invitation in June.
“Carlos was the story for us this weekend,” UCSB Head Coach Marty Davis said. “[Palencia’s] attacking skills and volleys were exceptional.”
Next weekend, Santa Barbara will have to contend with intense competition from Stanford, UCLA, USC and SDSU at the Pacific Coast Doubles Championships at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. This will give the Gauchos a much-needed opportunity to work on their Achilles heel.
“We have been getting crushed in doubles so far this season,” Davis said. “The upcoming weekend gives us a good chance to address that.”