After a much-needed break, the UCSB men’s tennis team begins a busy stretch of its schedule with a home match against Georgia State this afternoon.
Since falling 4-3 to conference rival Cal Poly last Saturday, the Gauchos (2-7 overall, 0-1 in the Big West) have had over a week to nurse their many injuries and prepare for this week’s busy schedule, in which they will play four matches. The action kicks off today at 1:30 p.m. when Santa Barbara hosts Georgia State (8-3 overall) on the Rec Cen tennis courts.
Santa Barbara was last on the court when it opened its conference season last weekend against Cal Poly at home. The Mustangs (5-4 overall, 2-0 Big West) took a 1-0 lead by winning all three doubles matches. The doubles point proved to be the deciding factor since the teams tied 3-3 in singles, with Cal Poly then coming out on top. Considering that it was their first appearance at home in six matches, it was a fairly solid effort for the injury-riddled Gauchos, as all three of their singles losses were close, three-set battles.
The biggest win for UCSB of the day came from its number one player, sophomore Bijan Hejazi, who defeated the nation’s 97th-ranked player, Cal Poly senior Matt Baca, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2. The effort earned Hejazi, last season’s Big West Freshman of the Year and First Team All-Big West honoree, his first Big West Player of the Week honor. With a great deal of shifts in the lineup because of injuries to senior Elad Stern, freshman Philip Therp and junior Jack Hui, Hejazi has had to be one of the few consistencies for the Gauchos at the top of their lineup.
Hejazi and the Gauchos will have their work cut out for them when they host Georgia State this afternoon. The Panthers are currently unranked, but post a stellar 8-3 record. Georgia State’s only losses have come against #10 Florida State, #52 Georgia Tech and the nation’s #1 team, University of Georgia. Leading the Panthers’ attack is senior Martin Stiegwardt who has a 9-2 singles record on the year and is currently on a four-match win streak. UCSB also squared off against Georgia State at home last season, and the Panthers handed the Gauchos their first home loss 5-2.
Today’s match is just the first of a full slate of matches for the Gauchos this week, and the busy schedule may prove to be a turning point in Santa Barbara’s season. Thursday UCSB will travel to Pepperdine (7-6) where it will face off against the defending NCAA champions in a make-up match that was rescheduled after being rained out during the first week of the season. Santa Barbara will then be home for a pair of matches this weekend. The Gauchos host San Diego State (3-5) on Saturday and Sunday they will go head to head with #75 San Francisco (5-4).