The UCSB men’s tennis team ended its season on a bittersweet note on Saturday, falling to #21 USC in the first round of the NCAA Regionals at UCLA’s Los Angeles Tennis Center.

The Trojans gained momentum early, winning the doubles point with victories at courts two and three. UCSB senior Carlos Palencia and freshman Mirco Schwindt defeated USC’s sophomore Prakash Amritraj, ranked #43, and freshman Jeff Kazarian 8-5 at No. 1 doubles, but the Gauchos could not muster wins from the No. 2 and No. 3 doubles spots.

USC dominated in singles, defeating the Gauchos in the first set on all six courts. USC sophomore Johan Berg defeated Schwindt 6-2, 6-0 on the No. 2 court. The Trojans took a commanding 3-0 lead when junior Parker Collins defeated freshman Michael Frick at No. 5 singles. The dual match was clinched at the No. 4 position when junior Ruben Torres defeated sophomore Alex Anselme 6-2, 6-1. The loss ended the Gauchos’ season at 15-9.

Despite their first-round exit, the season was a success for Santa Barbara. The Gauchos took home their second consecutive Big West Conference title and advanced to the NCAA Championships for the second year in a row. UCSB defeated Riverside and Irvine on its way to the Big West Championship game in Danville, Calif., where it defeated Pacific 4-0 on April 27.

The Gauchos were led by Head Coach Marty Davis who, in his fourth year as leader, earned his second straight Big West Coach of the Year honor. During his career at UCSB, Davis has posted a 43-49 record as coach.

Big West Player of the Year Palencia, ranked #115 in the nation entering the NCAA Championships, led the Gauchos all year at No. 1 singles. The award was Palencia’s second in as many years. Schwindt solidified the No. 2 singles spot, posting a 21-12 record, and earned 2003 All-Big West First Team honors in his first year with Santa Barbara. Palencia and Schwindt formed a menacing duo at No. 1 doubles, posting a 12-10 record, and earned a spot on the All-Big West First Team.

Junior Mike Placek finished the year at 12-17 and earned an All-Big West honorable mention at No. 3 singles for the Gauchos. Anselme finished 17-14 at the No. 4 singles spot and earned All-Big West Second Team honors in singles. Placek and Anselme were named to the All-Big West Second Team in singles with a 16-11 record.

The Gauchos played half of their matches against nationally ranked teams and fared well. Santa Barbara posted wins against #42 San Diego, #60 Texas Tech, #70 Pacific and #74 Irvine in 2003.

Santa Barbara loses Palencia to graduation but returns the rest of the 2003 Big West Championship squad for 2004.