After conquering the Big West, the #71 UCSB men’s tennis team now has its sights set on the NCAA Tournament.
Fresh off their dramatic 4-3 win over Pacific to capture the Big West Championship last weekend, the Gauchos will travel to Stanford, where they will face #20 Cal Saturday, May 13, in a first-round matchup. It has been quite a week for Santa Barbara, as – in addition to Sunday’s unforgettable win over Pacific – it swept the Big West postseason awards.
UCSB garnered all of the conference’s top honors, with senior Nick Brotman receiving Big West Player of the Year, freshman Bijan Hejazi taking Freshman of the Year and Head Coach Marty Davis being named Coach of the Year for the third time in his tenure at UCSB.
“It’s much more gratifying to see the guys win awards,” Davis said. “I was very happy for Nick and for Bijan. [Nick’s] clearly established himself as one of the best players in the conference.”
Brotman had a stellar season in both singles and doubles play for the Gauchos, posting a 13-8 record on the season as well as capturing three Big West Player of the Week awards. Brotman has enjoyed an incredible run of late and enters this weekend’s action having won 10 of his last 12 matches.
In his first year with the Gauchos, Hejazi has already proven to be a potent weapon in UCSB’s arsenal, posting an overall singles record of 18-6. Hejazi has been particularly impressive playing at the #2 spot in the lineup, as he as gone 13-3 against the competition. Hejazi is just one of six freshmen that played active roles with the Gauchos this season, and leading a young team to an overall 15-10 record and a conference championship is quite an accomplishment for Davis.
“This has been one of my more enjoyable seasons having all the young guys,” Davis said. “They’ve all got really great team spirit and chemistry, so it’s actually been a pretty easy year for me in that respect. We’ve really just been able to focus on tennis all season.”
Brotman and Hejazi also made First Team All-Big West in singles, and sophomore Anders Dalskov earned second-team honors with a solid 15-9 record. The Gauchos were honored in doubles as well, as the #1 tandem of Brotman and Dalskov was named to the first team, and the freshmen duo of Carsten Thorstensen and Scott Hohenstein made the second team.
The 64-team field for the NCAA Tournament was announced Wednesday with the Gauchos drawing Cal in a match that will be hosted by Stanford. Whichever team comes out on top will face the winner of the Stanford/Quinnipiac match, which will also take place Saturday, May 13. The team that wins the match Sunday, May 14, will move on to the sweet 16, which is also conveniently being hosted by Stanford, as Stanford plays host to both the men’s and women’s championships.
“Our #1 and #2 players have been playing as good as anyone in the country right now,” Davis said. “[Cal] is my alma mater, so for me personally, it’s going to be really fun.”
Recent history is not in the Gauchos’ favor, as they have not fared well against Pac-10 teams. UCSB will be hoping that its 4-2 win over Oregon earlier this season – its first victory over a Pac-10 team in over six years – put an end to the trend.
“I think the guys see this as a real opportunity – one that doesn’t come along every day,” Davis said. “You don’t get to go to the NCAAs every year, so I think they’re focused on the fact that this may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”