The defending Big West champion men’s tennis team is off to a phenomenal start this season as its three top returning players represented UCSB in the 2003 Icy Hot/ITA Men’s All-American Championships in Chattanooga, Tenn. last weekend.

Only the best players in the country qualified to play in this fall tennis classic, hosted for the second straight year at the Champions Club. The tournament is not only the largest single tournament of the 2003-2004 season, with over 300 competitors battling for the esteemed title, but it is also the first of three national championship events at the NCAA Division I level during the collegiate tennis season.

UCSB Head Coach Marty Davis, heading into his fifth season at the helm of the program, commendably led his top players to three first-round singles victories in the qualifying draw. Senior Mike Placek defeated Andrei Nicoara of University of Arkansas 7-5, 6-3 but succumbed to Jacopo Tezza 6-4, 6-2 in the second round of the tournament. Returning letterman junior Alex Anselme also swept his first round match in straight sets 6-0, 6-4 against Christian Hand of Brigham Young University, who was Southern California’s Boy’s 18’s Sectional Champion. Anselme was eventually defeated in the second round by Zach Dailey of the NCAA runner-up Vanderbilt University 6-2, 7-5. Sophomore Nicholas Brotman effortlessly defeated Walter Whitmire of University of Arkansas at Little Rock 6-1, 6-2 in his first round, but was beaten by Paul Rose of Purdue in a spine-tingling three set match 6-2, 6-7, 7-5.

The doubles team of Placek and Anselme cruised through its first round match without much difficulty, defeating Tom de Larzac and Thomas Kwong of St. Louis University 8-3. Triumphing into their second round, the crowd watched anxiously as UCSB’s double duo played a nail-biting match against Middle Tennessee State University’s top players Greg Pollack and Anant Sitaram. In an admirable effort, UCSB was eventually defeated in a 9-8 tiebreaker.

“I was very pleased with the way the guys competed this weekend. They showed a lot of Gaucho spirit,” Davis said.

With six returning lettermen and four new recruits, the Gauchos kicked off the season with a wonderful start. Sophomores Leo Basica and Michael Frick are two additional returning lettermen for Davis. Top returning ace sophomore Mirco Schwindt is unable to play this season due to a spinal injury.

Top recruits include junior Matt Coin, transfer student from Lafayette College, who played #1 for his team last year. Freshman newcomer Nick Edlefsen won last year’s Minnesota High School State Championship. Freshman Chris Wetzig of Colorado Springs won the State High School Sportsmanship Award last year. UCSB’s top recruit, freshman Elad Stern of Haifa, Israel, is a three-time Junior National doubles champion.

With new recruits, intense preseason matches under its belt and a Big West Conference title to defend, the UCSB tennis team is geared for the upcoming season. UCSB competes this weekend in Fresno at the Bulldog Classic and hopes to continue to own the courts.