The UCSB men’s tennis team fell just short of ending its regular season on a high-note after losing 4-3 to Sacramento State over the weekend.
In their final match before to Big West Championships, the Gauchos (4-18 overall, 2-2 in the Big West) were impressive in doubles but could not come up with the victory in singles, as the Hornets (19-5) took four of the six matches, winning 4-3. Santa Barbara now shifts its focus to defending its Big West title. This weekend, the Gauchos will head to Indian Wells for the conference tournament.
“It was good preparation for us – it would have been better had we won,” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “I thought the level of focus was good and the level of aggression was good.”
The Gauchos started the match with a win in doubles from junior Anders Dalskov and sophomore Grant Robertson. After a Hornet win on court one, the doubles point came down to the number three match between sophomore Nigel Barton and freshman Josh Finkelstein and Sacramento State seniors Ramon Perez and Warwick Foy. Finkelstein and Barton fought off five set points and rallied to a dramatic 9-7 win, giving Santa Barbara a 1-0 lead.
“I was really happy with pulling out the doubles point because we were really under pressure at number three,” Davis said. “They fought of five set points, so I was definitely pleased with the play in doubles.”
UCSB took a 2-0 lead after sophomore Bijan Hejazi breezed through his match against the Hornet’s number one player, freshman Xavier Barajas-Smith, 6-1, 6-3. Sacramento State began to rally with three straight singles wins, defeating junior Jack Hui, Robertson and sophomore Max Taylor, who was playing in his first match in nearly three weeks after being sidelined with an injury.
The match came down to courts two and four, with Dalskov and Finkelstein leading the Gauchos against freshman Anton Stryhas and Perez. Finkelstein showed a considerable amount of fight and tenacity, but Perez was able to clinch the match for the Hornets, 6-4, 7-5. UCSB pushed the final score to 4-3 as Dalskov won his fourth straight match, 6-4, 6-3.
Saturday’s final home match gave the Gauchos a chance to honor their lone senior, Elad Stern, whose final season was disappointingly cut short in February by a torn rotator cuff. Stern was instrumental in last season’s success, as he clinched the Big West title for the Gauchos in a dramatic three-set win over Pacific. While Stern will not be in action on the court, UCSB is hoping to replicate the spirit he showed last season in its bid for a second consecutive conference title.