The UCSB men’s tennis team faced more than it could handle this weekend, when it lost a pair of games while visiting San Diego.
After going 4-1 in a five-game homestand, the Gauchos (11-8 overall, 3-0 in the Big West) looked to improve their 1-5 road record as they faced tough competitors #38 San Diego and #56 San Diego State. Although Santa Barbara has defeated four ranked opponents this season, the competition proved to be too much for the Gauchos, resulting in two 1-6 losses.
Saturday the Gauchos faced San Diego, which was playing its final home game of the season. The Toreros swept doubles play to jump out to an early 1-0 lead, and remained sharp in singles as they took care of five out of six Gauchos in straight sets. In the #2 spot, freshman Bijan Hejazi fell 4-6, 3-6, while usually dependable sophomore Anders Dalskov lost 1-6, 2-6 at #3. Also dropping straight set matches were junior Elad Stern 1-6, 2-6 and freshmen Max Taylor and Carsten Thorstensen, 3-6, 2-6 and 1-6, 3-6, respectively.
The Gauchos’ sole point in the day came from senior Nick Brotman, who rallied after losing the first set to defeat his opponent in a tiebreaker at #1 singles 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (8-6). The win was Brotman’s sixth straight, and for the second consecutive week Brotman was crowned Big West Player of the Week.
“[Brotman’s] been great,” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “He’s finally learned to play within himself and not go for too much. He’s played really well and I’m super happy for him.”
UCSB looked to rebound from Saturday’s loss when they went up against San Diego State on Sunday. The Aztecs took the doubles point 2-1, despite an 8-6 win from freshmen tandem Thorstensen and Scott Hohenstein. The Gauchos were more competitive in singles than they were Saturday, but they were unable to improve the final result.
“Our performance on Saturday was disappointing; we didn’t play very well at all,” Davis said. “Sunday, against San Diego State, we played a lot better and were really in the match to where it was close.”
Brotman’s stellar run of six straight victories came to an end when he lost 2-6, 6-7 at the #1 spot, while Thorstensen dropped his match at #6 4-6, 3-6. Hejazi claimed the Gauchos’ only victory of the day at #2 singles with a 7-5, 6-4 defeat of Aztec senior Benedikt Stronk. Taylor and Stern both fell in tough three-set matches 5-7, 4-6, 5-7, and 3-6, 6-7, 5-7, respectively, while Dalskov lost in two competitive sets 6-7, 5-7.
UCSB aims to regain momentum this weekend, as it travels to UC Irvine for its final conference match on Saturday. If victory is theirs, the Gauchos will clinch their third consecutive Big West regular season title.
“I think everybody’s focused on Irvine, and they understand that winning the conference championship is the ticket to the NCAA’s,” Davis said.
Sunday the Gauchos will be looking for crowd support as they face Fresno State in their final home match of the season, beginning at 11 at the Rec Cen tennis courts.