It was a long afternoon for the injury-ridden UCSB men’s tennis team yesterday as it dropped a match to Georgia State 1-6.
After beginning the season with a roster of ten players, injuries have continued to wear on the Gauchos (2-7 overall, 1,1 in the Big West), and in yesterday’s match against Georgia State (9-3) they were only able to put five healthy players on the court for singles. The result was a 1-6 loss to the Panthers, and the road does not get any easier for UCSB as it travels to Malibu to face Pepperdine on Thursday.
“I was disappointed in our serving in doubles, so we’ll need to improve there,” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “But we mostly need to get healthy.”
Santa Barbara fell behind early in doubles play, as juniors Anders Dalskov and Grant Robertson fell 5-8 on court one and sophomore Nigel Barton and freshman Josh Finkelstein lost 4-8. Sophomores Max Taylor and defending Big West Player of the Week Bijan Hejazi played a close match at number three doubles, but ended up falling 7-8, giving Georgia State a 1-0 lead head into singles.
Due to injury, Robertson had to sit out his singles match, and without enough healthy players, the Gauchos had to default at the number six match, giving Georgia State a 2-0 lead. The Panthers put another point on the board as freshman Andres Arango defeated Finkelstein 6-3, 6-2 on court four. Georgia State clinched the match as its number three player, freshman Mattias Skold, defeated Taylor 6-4, 6-4, giving the Panthers the 4-0 advantage it needed to win.
The day’s remaining matches were closer than the final score indicates, as the Gauchos were able to split sets in each of them. On court one, Hejazi put forth a solid effort against Georgia State senior Martin Stiegwardt, splitting the first two sets 6-3, 3-6, but with the match already clinched for the Panthers, the singles match was to be decided by a 10-point tiebreaker, which Georgia State won 10-5. Dalskov’s match also went to a tiebreaker, and the Panthers came out on top again 6-2, 3-6, 10-5.
Facing a 0-6 deficit, the Gauchos only hopes for not being shut out were on the shoulders of Barton, who squared off against Panther senior Daniel Balog on court five. Barton showed a great deal of tenacity in two close sets, and then sailed through the tiebreaker to take Santa Barbara’s only point of the afternoon, 7-5, 6-7, 10-4.
“We’re showing some improvement,” Davis said. “I think we showed signs on our net play and the aggressiveness and commitment to controlling points was there.”
Tuesday’s match began a stretch in which the Gauchos will play five matches in nine days. They will be in action once again Thursday on the road against #24 Pepperdine (7-6) – a match that was rescheduled from earlier in the season due to rain. Facing the Waves will be no easy task, as they are last season’s NCAA champions.
“It’s definitely going to be difficult especially with five healthy players,” Davis said. “Matches to me are better than practice; there is a lot more concentration and intensity required, so it’s going to be good experience.”