After six exhibition matches, the UCSB men’s tennis team will now embark on a stretch of Big West Conference road matches, beginning with rival Cal Poly Sunday at noon in San Luis Obispo.
“We’ve got a great team,” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “They might have a tough crowd, but I feel good about our chances.”
The Gauchos (3-3 overall) have won three out of their last four matches, with #6 UCLA ending their three-match winning streak 6-1 on Wednesday. Sophomore team captain Josh Finkelstein won the sole match for the Gauchos in the fifth singles slot against Bruins’ senior Jeremy Drean. Freshman Alexander Konigsfeldt banged his right knee on the court midway through his first singles set in the third slot, but played through the match in a 6-3, 6-0 loss. If he is unable to play, junior Jack Hui, Finkelstein and freshman Eric Lee will each move up a singles spot, making way for junior Max Taylor in the sixth slot, who lost his first match since his return from a foot injury.
“I think Alex’s [Konigsfeldt] injury is minor. He should be 100 percent on Sunday,” junior Bijan Hejazi said. “We played Cal Poly in the fall and we beat them, even though we didn’t have three of our players.”
The Big West Conference named Hejazi the Tennis Athlete of the Week on Wednesday because of his performance in the Gauchos’ 6-1 victory against Oregon last Sunday. UCSB remains undefeated at home, but it holds a 1-3 road record on the road, while the Mustangs (5-3) have lost none of their games on SLO turf. Cal Poly currently holds the third best record in the Big West behind UC Davis (6-5) and Pacific (4-3, 2-0 in the Big West). UCSB is currently ranked fourth, ahead of UC Irvine (3-4) and UC Riverside (1-5).
“Being on the road will definitely be a factor, especially against Cal Poly,” Finkelstein said. “They’ve got some of the craziest fans. But if we play well, it won’t matter – we’re a better team than that.”
Despite their loss to UCLA, Finkelstein says that the team gained confidence from keeping the matches close against the sixth best team in the country.
“We need to serve well and return well in the doubles matches,” Finkelstein said. “If we win the doubles point, the match will be pretty much over.”