The UCSB men’s tennis team had a tough opening to its conference season over the weekend with a narrow 3-4 loss to Cal Poly.
Still hampered by injuries to key starters, the Gauchos (2-7 overall, 0-1 in the Big West) dropped the doubles point and three singles matches to the Mustangs (4-4, 1-0 Big West), missing out on their first home win of the season. After Saturday’s loss, Santa Barbara will now get a much-needed week off from action to get healthy and practice, as it does not play another match until next Tuesday.
“We knew it was going to be a close match, so we were disappointed that we didn’t get the win,” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “We lost three three-set matches, so we were definitely in the matches that we lost.”
In doubles, the Santa Barbara tandem of sophomores Bijan Hejazi and Max Taylor fell on court three 5-8, and the Mustangs took the doubles point with a close win on court two over freshman Josh Finkelstein and sophomore Nigel Barton. Cal Poly swept the doubles and took a 1-0 lead with an 8-6 win over junior Anders Dalskov and sophomore Grant Robertson on court one.
The Gauchos put forth a much better effort in singles, with many of the matches coming down to the wire. Playing in the second position in the lineup, Dalskov eased through his match in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2, the only two-set match of the day. On court four, Finkelstein played arguably his best match of the season, winning in three sets over Cal Poly junior Fred DeWitte 6-4, 2-6 and 6-3.
“It was definitely a big breakthrough for me because I just got moved up to #4,” Finkelstein said. “That win was huge for me because I knew I had to play really well to beat [DeWitte].”
Cal Poly tied the match at 2-2 when it edged a win over Taylor 6-2, 3-6 and 4-6 on court three. The Gauchos’ number one player, Hejazi, earned the most impressive victory on the day when he defeated the nation’s 94th-ranked player, Mustang senior Matt Baca, 3-6, 6-2 and 6-2.
After rallying from 0-4 down to take the first set over Cal Poly’s Robert Foy 6-4, Barton looked as though he would secure the win when he faced match point at 6-5 in the second set, but Foy rallied to take the set 7-6. Foy took control from then on, winning the third set and the match, 5-6, 7-6 and 6-3.
With the match tied at three all, the focus was on court six, where Robertson was taking on Cal Poly’s Nick Berger. Robertson battled hard in the first two sets, barely dropping the first 5-7 and bouncing back to take the second set 6-4. Berger was too much to handle in the third set, however; he took the set and the match 7-5, 4-6, 6-1, to clinch the 4-3 victory for the Mustangs.
“From the guys that have had to start, this has probably been their best effort,” Davis said. “I think the bench players that have had to step in are starting to get a lot more comfortable.”