The #75 UCSB men’s tennis team sits in prime position to retake the Big West tennis throne.
After Friday’s 5-2 win over Riverside, the Gauchos (9-12 overall, 3-1 in the Big West) enter the Big West Tournament as the #3 seed and will face #6 Utah State on Friday in Indian Wells, Calif.
“Utah and Idaho are the bottom seeds, so we should survive,” senior Leo Basica said. “We are better on paper, but anything can happen on the court.”
UCSB started the match against the Highlanders off well, winning the highly contested doubles point. Senior Alex Anselme and freshman Anders Dalskov fell at #1 doubles 8-6, but juniors Nick Brotman and Ivan d’Argence won a nail-biter 9-7 at #2 and sophomore Elad Stern and Basica held out for an 8-5 win at #3.
The Gauchos dominated the majority of singles play. D’Argence lost a close battle at #3 singles 6-7, 6-2, (10-8), and Brotman fell at #2 6-1, 6-4. Anselme thrived at #1, and Stern, Basica and Dalskov were each victorious at spots 4-6.
The bracket sets the stage for a potential second round rematch of last year’s Big West final between the Gauchos and Pacific. Pacific comes in as the #2 seed and will face #7 Idaho in the first round. The Gauchos were defeated by UOP in Stockton on April 9, 4-3.
“The Pacific match is on our minds,” Basica said. “We will adjust our lineup to fit theirs. In my opinion, the match against Pacific will be the real championship because we know we are able to beat Irvine.”
UCI earned the #1 seed and the first round bye that comes with it. Irvine awaits the winner of #4 Cal Poly and #5 Riverside.
Utah State has only played two Big West opponents thus far. The Aggies defeated Idaho in January and fell to Cal Poly in February. It has been two months since Utah State has played a Big West foe, a factor that should be an advantage to the Gauchos. The Aggies have won their last five matches and have plenty of momentum heading into the conference tournament.
“We really need the doubles point, and we have been winning it consistently,” Basica said. “We just need to fight for every point if we want to win it all.”
UCSB rounded out the weekend by knocking off Denver 5-2. The Gauchos won the doubles point en route to victory.
Next up for the Gauchos is Westmont on Monday. The Gaucho seniors will be honored, as it is their final home match. The team will look to extend its winning streak to three and to continue building more momentum before its quest for the Big West title begins.