Nothing is as sweet as revenge, and when the #62 UCSB men’s tennis team takes to the courts this weekend in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against defending national champion #21 USC, the revenge the Gauchos will look for could be twice as nice.
Not only will Santa Barbara look to avenge a 6-1 loss to the Trojans on Jan. 27, but it will also hope to avenge its first-round exit from the NCAA Tournament last year at the hands of another Southern California nemesis, UCLA.
“I wouldn’t call it a revenge match,” UCSB Head Coach Marty Davis said, “but it would show our guys how quickly they have improved.”
This year’s edition of the men’s tennis team has sky-high confidence. The Gauchos are riding a seven-match winning streak, have not lost a match in over a month and are coming off an emotional win at the Big West Tournament two weekends ago.
“Winning the Big West was emotional for a lot of reasons,” senior captain Carlos Palencia said. “It showed how tight we are as a team. Even the [UCSB] women’s [tennis] team stuck around an extra day just to cheer us on and give us inspiration. They were awesome for us, and we didn’t want to let them down.”
Santa Barbara may or may not have the women’s tennis team on the sidelines on Saturday when the first serve is hit, but the team feels it will have the advantage over the Trojans.
“When we played them before, we didn’t have [Nicholas] Brotman playing in the #6 spot for us,” junior Mike Placek said, “and he has been huge for us lately. He has won seven matches in a row. That is a big difference.”
Besides the obvious addition of Brotman to the lineup, the Gauchos feel that every man on the squad has improved since the last time they faced the Trojans.
“Since we last played them, we have improved a lot,” Palencia said.
“We have grown up a lot as a team since January,” Placek said, “both emotionally and physically.”
Davis is impressed with his entire team’s improvement during the season, but he is quick to note that the Gauchos’ success can be greatly credited to one group of players in particular: the freshmen.
“At the beginning of the season our weakness used to be our freshmen,” Davis said. “Now our strength is our freshmen.”
The Trojans and Gauchos will square off at the Los Angeles Tennis Center at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning. Davis would like to see his team to start off hot by winning the doubles point, but he knows that it will not be easy.
“The doubles point will be a big challenge for us,” Davis said. “We have been playing really strong at doubles recently, and it would be a real bonus for us to win the doubles point.”
With or without the doubles point, Davis feels confident that his squad will have a good chance to win a number of singles matches.
“We match up really well in the singles,” Davis said. “They are vulnerable at five and six, and we have been good lately at five and six. We will just have to see what happens, but we have a great opportunity and we will be ready.”