The UCSB men’s tennis team won an important conference match against Pacific on the road this weekend.
The Gauchos (3-13 overall, 2-1 in the Big West) put a stop to their nine-game losing streak in their 6-1 victory over the Tigers (3-13, 0-4 Big West), the team they defeated in last season’s Big West Championship Friday. On Saturday, Santa Barbara tried to make it two straight when it faced #66 Fresno State, but it fell 6-1.
“We definitely needed a win, and that was obviously a big one because it was a conference match,” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “Now we’re 2-1 in conference play and it’s still possible for us to win the regular season title if we can win our next two conference matches.”
Friday’s match got off to a good start for the Gauchos as they swept through doubles play with 8-3 wins from sophomore Bijan Hejazi and junior Jack Hui on court one, junior Anders Dalskov and sophomore Grant Robertson on court two and sophomores Josh Finkelstein and Nigel Barton on court three. Santa Barbara built on its 1-0 lead in singles play when Finkelstein beat his opponent in straight sets 6-4, 7-5, and Barton eased to a 6-2, 6-0 win on court six. Dalskov battled to a win in the second position for UCSB, defeating Pacific freshman Vegerd Veskimagi 6-3, 4-6, 10-8.
The Gauchos’ recent nine-game slide can be attributed in some part to a great deal of misfortune on the injury front. Key to this final stretch of the season will be Philip Therp and Hui, who have recently returned after missing considerable time with wrist injuries. Both players earned wins on Friday, as Therp – who has been relegated to using a one-handed backhand – won his match in three sets 6-3, 1-6, 6-4. Hui, playing in his first singles match in over six weeks, won on court four 7-5, 6-3.
“Phil is battling and still kind of finding his way playing with the one-handed backhand,” Davis said. “[Hui] is kind of rusty and not playing with a lot of confidence yet. We’re hoping within the next few days of practices we can get him back to form; it usually takes a couple matches.”
Santa Barbara was unable to earn back-to-back wins when it battled Fresno State (10-7) Saturday. The Bulldogs swept the doubles point and took four of the six singles matches in straight sets. Finkelstein dominated his opponent 6-1, 6-1 on court five, and Hejazi battled hard against the nation’s 70th ranked player in Fresno State senior Jakub Cech, but came up short 2-6, 6-4, 3-6.
UCSB will now prepare for three consecutive home matches this weekend, two of which have serious Big West postseason implications, as the squad will face Irvine on Saturday and Riverside this Sunday.