As the UCSB men’s tennis team opened its season on Saturday, it wasn’t youth that was being served – it was youth that was doing the serving.
Every player saw action in an opening day doubleheader in which the Gauchos dominated Westmont 6-1 and, due to the efforts of five freshmen playing in singles, won their match against Fresno Pacific 4-3. With a tough opening stretch of the season ahead for UCSB, it could not have asked for a better start.
“For the season opener you want to build confidence and get the momentum going in your favor, because we have a tough schedule to start” senior Hagen Brody said.
In the opening match against Westmont, the Gauchos easily swept through doubles and singles play, a victory that was even more lopsided as the Gaucho wins were in straight sets.
Three freshmen got the opportunity to play singles against Westmont, and they all turned in notable performances. Bijan Hejazi, playing in the #2 spot for the Gauchos, dominated 6-2, 6-4. Impressive freshmen debuts were also performed by Max Taylor, who won 6-2, 6-3, and Grant Robertson with a 6-3, 6-1 win. Robertson was also impressive in doubles playing alongside Brody, shutting out their opponent 8-0.
“What I was impressed with this team is the new freshmen bring an energy level and a spirit that is really great for the team,” sophomore Anders Dalskov said. Dalskov obliterated his singles opponent 6-0, 6-0.
Saturday afternoon’s matchup with Fresno Pacific proved to be more of a challenge for Santa Barbara, but at the end of the day it was nothing it could not handle. The Gauchos again swept through doubles, sealing a 6-0 doubles record for the day. In singles, Head Coach Marty Davis elected to start five freshman as well as senior Nick Brotman in the #1 spot, where he will likely play all season.
“The goal was to come out and get all the freshmen playing,” junior Elad Stern said, who won his doubles match with Hejazi 8-5. “I’ve been very impressed; they’re very tough mentally and that’s what college matches are all about.”
The Gauchos had a 3-0 lead after Hejazi and Brotman eased through their singles matches at 6-4, 6-3 and 6-4, 6-0, respectively. As freshman Scott Hohenstein and Robertson lost tough three-set matches, it came down to either Taylor or freshman Carsten Thorstensen to ice it for the Gauchos. Taylor became the hero of the day when he hit a spectacular overhead in the final game of the third set to seal the 4-3 victory for UCSB.
“They came through in a pressure situation,” Davis said. “They learn to enjoy the privilege of playing when it’s important, and all our freshmen got good experience today.”
Santa Barbara hopes to carry the momentum over to Monday, as it faces a tough #63 BYU at 1:30 on the Rec Cen tennis courts.