To be the best…you must play the best.

This is what the #64 UCSB men’s tennis team is saying to themselves as they head to Pepperdine on Wednesday. Pepperdine is ranked #27 in the nation and poses a real challenge to the Gauchos.

Even though this isn’t a league match, the team still feels they need to play these top caliber teams to see what they can expect this season. After losing two top seniors from last year’s squad, the Gauchos are still in the rebuilding process and working on team chemistry. Head Coach Marty Davis feels strongly that his team can compete with a powerhouse like Pepperdine and its standout players.

“This is the deepest team I have coached here, so we’re very strong top to bottom. I think we’re going to present a challenge to almost any team that we play,” said Davis. “We’re strong all the way down to five or six in the lineup.”

In their last match, the Gauchos faced Westmont College and defeated them without much trouble, 7-0. With standout play by sophomore Nick Brotman, who won his last doubles and singles matches, the Gauchos feel they are ready for a team from the top tier. The upcoming game will prepare them for league play against a very strong Big West Conference.

“Were trying to three-peat, this year will be a real challenge, because Pacific returns its top four players, who we played in the conference final last year,” said Davis. “Irvine looks much improved as well, and once it comes April, I feel that we will be playing some very good tennis.”

Pepperdine has an arsenal of talent that UCSB will confront on Wednesday. Pepperdine senior Calle Hansen, who is ranked as the 29th best collegiate tennis player in the world, and sophomore Pedro Rico, who is ranked 31st, pose a problem in both doubles and singles for the Gauchos.

Pepperdine Head Coach Adam Steinberg feels confident about his team and looks to his all-stars like Rico to come through and play at the top of their game.

“I am confident that he will go out and play to the best of his abilities. He had a great fall season and obviously others noticed,” said Steinberg.

After the tough match against Pepperdine, the Gauchos will prepare to face Riverside at home Saturday, Jan. 24.