The UCSB men’s tennis team is hoping to return to the NCAA Championships once again after being denied last year. The team will look to an experienced bunch of upperclassmen to lead it to its goal.

After capturing the Big West title in both 2002 and 2003, the Gauchos faltered in the Big West Championship, falling to Pacific last year.

“We were definitely disappointed with last year’s loss to Pacific,” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “Hopefully we will be able to get the #1 seed again this year. We expect to become regulars at the dance. Our goal is at least a trip to the Sweet 16, just as some of the other sports here have done.”

Six of the nine Gauchos are upperclassmen, led by senior Alex Anselme and junior Nick Brotman, both All-Big West selections a year ago. Captains senior Matt Coin and sophomore Elad Stern will also be instrumental to the team’s success.

UCSB begins the season at #67, the highest ranked team in the Big West. The only other nationally ranked Big West team is #73 Irvine.

“On paper we are the best squad, but I expect it to be a four-horse race with us, Pacific, Irvine and Cal Poly, who is much improved,” Davis said. “Anselme is our best singles player and Brotman and [junior] Ivan [d’Argence] will most likely start as our #1 doubles pair. We should dominate the four, five and six singles spots and be competitive in the one through three spots. Last year doubles was our Achilles heel, but the balance in our team means there will be plenty of lineup changes.”

The tennis season officially kicks off tomorrow in Santa Barbara. The Gauchos will face Claremont Mudd at 9 a.m. and San Francisco at 1 p.m.