The #70 UCSB men’s tennis team will make its second attempt at a season-opener this weekend after rain drowned out its debut matches one week ago.
The Gauchos were supposed to open their 2007 campaign with a home match against #73 Brigham Young University, but the match was cancelled because of the unfavorable weather. Rain also put a damper on Santa Barbara’s road match against defending national champion #9 Pepperdine, but the match was rescheduled to March 8. This weekend, the Gauchos will travel to Tempe, Ariz., where they will square off against #57 Arizona State University on Friday and University of South Florida on Sunday.
This afternoon UCSB will attempt to begin its season with a road win over the Sun Devils (2-0 overall). Arizona State got its season off to a hot start last Friday with dominating wins over Scottsdale Community College and Northern Arizona University of 7-0 and 6-1, respectively. The Sun Devils swept through all of their doubles matches and only dropped one singles match on the day. While the Gauchos will be a dramatic upgrade in competition for ASU, they will still need to be on top of their game if they want to start the season off with a win.
The Gauchos will stay at Arizona State and face South Florida on Super Bowl Sunday. Last season South Florida finished with a dual match record of 5-16 and placed third in the Big East Championships. The Bulls feature a young team with seven freshmen on their roster and have already notched a mark in the win column by defeating Stetson University 5-2 last weekend.
Sophomore Bijan Hejazi, who will start the season playing #1 singles, will lead Santa Barbara. Hejazi is coming off of an impressive freshman campaign in which he had a 20-6 dual match record and earned First Team All-Big West honors as well as the Big West Freshman of the Year award. Behind Hejazi in singles is where the Gauchos’ depth will shine, as they feature a solid 2-5 lineup that includes junior transfer Jack Hui, who will likely play at #2, and junior Anders Dalskov, who was Second Team All-Big West last season in singles and First Team in doubles.
While the singles lineup for the Gauchos is strong, it may take them several weeks to come into their own doubles-wise. One of their best doubles players from last season, sophomore Scott Hohenstein, is sidelined with an injury and the First Team All-Big West doubles tandem of Dalskov and senior Nicholas Brotman was split up after Brotman graduated. Santa Barbara will likely use the early phase of the season to figure out which tandems can serve up success.
The schedule will not give Santa Barbara any breaks in the early going of the season. After this weekend the Gauchos will return to Santa Barbara to make their home court debut next Friday against Boise State; UCSB will then travel to Oregon where it will face the University of Portland and Pac-10 foe University of Oregon.