The UCSB men’s tennis team will write what it hopes is not the final chapter in a long, winding season this weekend at the Big West Championships in Indian Wells, Calif.
“The weather forecast is hot tomorrow and it should cool down over the weekend,” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “It will be over 100 degrees on the court with lots of pain and suffering. UCI has a huge advantage because they drew the coolest start times. We drew the hottest possible start times, but we are also the best conditioned team in the tournament.”
The Gauchos (10-12 overall, 3-1 in the Big West) enter the tournament as the #3 seed and will face Utah State (10-11 overall, 0-1 Big West). UCSB has won three matches in the last week, while the Aggies ended their season with a five-match win streak. The Gauchos are winless in 10 tries on the road this season, an ominous sign heading into Indian Wells.
“We shouldn’t have a problem since this is at a neutral site, not a road game,” Davis said. “All teams will have to adjust, and the courts are similar to the ones we play on at home.”
The two Big West foes have yet to see each other this season, but have several common opponents. Both teams fell to Boise State and Portland in nonconference matches. In Big West play, Utah State fell to Cal Poly on Feb. 13, a team UCSB knocked off 6-1 in early March.
“I hope Utah State is scared,” Davis said. “They haven’t had a real great season. We’ll be looking closely at doubles to see how they play. We hope their record is indicative of how good they are.”
The Aggies are led by junior Joao Pinho. During Utah State’s current five-match win streak, Pinho has won #1 singles four times.
Pinho will face Gaucho senior Alex Anselme, UCSB’s #1 singles player for the last two years. Anselme has won #1 singles in three straight matches.
The doubles point will be crucial to the match. The Gauchos struggled to win the doubles point early in the year, but have since found their groove. UCSB has won the doubles point in seven of its last eight matches.
“We need to get off to a really good start,” Davis said. “Doubles will be important.”
Pacific, the #2 team that defeated UCSB in the Big West Championship last year, faces #7 Idaho in another quarterfinal match Friday. The winner of this match faces the winner of UCSB’s match.
“We are absolutely looking forward to Pacific,” Davis said. “Whoever wants it the most will be the tournament champion.”
The Gauchos, ranked #75 last week, look to conquer their road woes and reclaim the Big West crown, a feat that will take three days to accomplish.
“Playing three games in three days will be a challenge,” Davis said. “Our conditioning and strength programs have been geared toward this tournament and hopefully will pay off.”