The most dangerous teams heading into a playoff are often the teams that are the hottest, not necessarily the squads with the best record.
If this is the case, then all of the teams in the Big West Tournament this upcoming weekend should be scared.
On Saturday, the #70 UCSB men’s tennis team won its fourth-straight match by edging #39 University of San Diego 4-3 in an important non-conference win at Campus Courts.
“The win was pretty amazing,” senior netter Carlos Palencia said. “It was our best win over a highly ranked team in a long time. They are a very good team and the win gives us a lot of confidence going into [the tournament].”
The Gauchos stormed out of the gate Saturday, serving notice that they were not intimidated by San Diego’s high national ranking by winning all three doubles matches in convincing fashion.
The #1 doubles team of Palencia/freshman Mirco Schwindt resoundingly defeated junior Jason Pongsrikul/sophomore Nic Beuque 8-3. The #2 doubles team of junior Mike Placek and sophomore Alex Anselme mowed down freshman Pierrick Ysern/sophomore Rob Blair 8-5.
Those two wins alone were enough for the doubles point, but the Gauchos decided to make it a clean sweep and prevailed at #3 doubles. UCSB freshmen Michael Frick/Nicholas Brotman defeated freshmen Mirza Koristovic and Michael Meschede easily 8-4.
“San Diego wins a lot of doubles points and they have played well at doubles all year long,” Palencia said. “But we have been playing well at doubles lately and it is always a big advantage to win the doubles point.”
After winning the crucial doubles point, Santa Barbara needed to win three of the six singles matches to notch a quality win against a top ranked opponent. At #1 singles, Palencia was unable to unseat #108 Ysern, falling 6-4, 6-2. Playing in the #2 spot, Schwindt pulled out a terrific victory over Blair 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
The #3 three singles match was the most competitive of the afternoon, but Placek could not upend Pongsrikul, falling 4-6, 7-5, 3-6. Anselme lost a heartbreaking three set match at the #4 spot, and that put the pressure squarely on the shoulders of the Gauchos’ freshmen youngsters.
They were up to the challenge.
Frick downed Koristovic convincingly 6-2, 6-1. Brotman put the icing on the cake at the #6 singles spot by defeating Nicolas Shaffner 6-2, 6-4.
“It is really big that all three of our freshmen won,” Anselme said. “We are just as deep this year as we were last and luckily everyone is playing well right now.”
The Gauchos will spend this week preparing to defend their Big West title this weekend in Danville. Santa Barbara, the #2 seed in the tournament, will play Riverside in the first round.