On a windy Sunday afternoon in San Luis Obispo, the UCSB men’s tennis team (3-4 overall) lost 5-2 in their first conference match of the season against Cal Poly (6-3).
“It was a humbling, humiliating experience,” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “Their footwork was better, they played better defense. They deserved to win, no question about it.”
The Gauchos, who were confident about their chances against their conference rivals, lost the doubles point 2-1 and were unable to overcome the Mustang’s momentum going into the singles matches. Senior Jack Hui and sophomore Philip Therp, playing in the first doubles slot, lost five consecutive games to lose 9-7 after a controversial line call on Therp’s first serve at deuce 7-5 sparked a Mustang comeback.
“There were a couple bad calls,” Hui said. “The ref kind of helped them out. I couldn’t get that [deuce] line call out of my head.”
In singles, junior Big West Tennis Athlete of the Week Bijan Hejazi lost in the Gauchos’ only three-set match 1-6, 6-4, 6-3. Hui and sophomore team captain Josh Finkelstein provided the team’s only victories of the day in the third and the fifth singles slots, respectively. At 5-1, Finkelstein now holds the team’s best singles record. He and his doubles partner, freshman Alexander Konigsfeldt, also won the Gauchos’ only doubles match 9-8, although the Mustangs had already taken the doubles point by the time their match ended. Konigsfeldt, who bruised his right knee against #6 UCLA, struggled in his straight-set singles loss to sophomore Robert Foy 6-2, 6-3.
“[Foy] was an athletic player that didn’t make many mistakes,” Konigsfeldt said. “If I were 100 percent, I think that I could have won.”
The loss shows how competitive the Big West is this season. According to Davis, division competitors #75 UC Irvine (4-4 overall, 1-0 conference) and Pacific (3-7 overall, 0-2 in the conference) are at least as good as the Mustangs. Davis said that the team’s best chance of making the NCAA Tournament might have to come from winning the Big West Tournament in April for the third-consecutive season.
“The good news is that it’s still early,” Davis said. “Hopefully we can regroup from this loss and improve.”
The Gauchos play at UC Irvine on March 8 at 1 p.m.