A three game losing streak is enough to put any team on edge, but nerves are the least of the UCSB men’s tennis team’s worries going into tonight’s match in Berkeley against #25 Cal.
The Gauchos (1-4 overall) were dealt a series of serious injury blows last week, leaving the team decimated for its weekend matches against Portland and Oregon that both ended in losses for UCSB. This week, Santa Barbara lost senior Elad Stern for the remainder of his final season with a torn rotator cuff, and freshman standout Philip Therp – out three months with a broken wrist suffered in last Friday’s 6-1 loss to Boise State. UCSB will be on the road again this weekend as it plays Cal, UC Davis and #73 Santa Clara.
“The scary thing about our injuries so far is that we’ve seen three season-ending injuries,” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “That’s three of our starters out for the season and that’s really going to be tough.”
Santa Barbara was already without the services of sophomore Scott Hohenstein, a Second Team All-Big West doubles player last season whose season also ended with a broken wrist. Perhaps no loss is more heartbreaking for the team than Stern’s, one of the team’s co-captains. Stern has been a stellar leader for the Gauchos throughout his career, which was most exemplified in last season’s Big West Championship match against Pacific that was tied at 3-3 when he courageously rallied from an 6-0 first set deficit to take the match and the title for the Gauchos.
“I’m really disappointed for [Elad Stern],” Davis said. “He’s meant a lot to this program and he’s our co-captain so I really feel for him.”
The injury troubles do not end there for UCSB. Junior Jack Hui, the Gauchos #2 singles player, is out temporarily with a wrist sprain. Hui missed Sunday’s match against Oregon and was replaced on court two by junior Anders Dalskov, who has posted a solid 3-2 record on the season. Also thanks to injury, sophomore Max Taylor will move to the third spot and freshman Josh Finkelstein to the fourth. UCSB’s less experienced singles players also had to step into the lineup, with sophomores Grant Robertson and Nigel Barton playing at five and six, respectively. With the holes in the lineup provided by Therp and Stern, these players will be expected to contribute throughout the remainder of the season, giving them needed experience.
“Our silver lining is that guys that are being thrust into the lineup now have the whole season to grow and develop their games and improve before the Big West Championships,” Davis said.
There will be no breaks in the schedule for the Gauchos as their three-day weekend is booked with three straight matches, beginning with Saturday’s clash with Cal. They will then travel from Berkeley to Davis on Sunday, followed by a match at Santa Clara on Monday.
“Fight and spirit – that’s really what I’m looking for,” Davis said. “We’re going to be overmatched against Cal and we have some chance of beating Davis and Santa Clara.”