After division rival Cal Poly (6-3) upset the UCSB men’s tennis (3-4) team last Sunday, the Gauchos look to bounce back against #53 UC Irvine on Saturday at 1 p.m. and UC Riverside (2-6) on Sunday at noon.
“I think we have more talent than anyone in the Big West,” junior Bijan Hejazi said. “But we learned a lesson from Cal Poly about how heart can win matches, and we’re working our butts off right now.”
The Anteaters jumped 22 spots in the rankings this Monday in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s newly implemented computerized ranking system. In February, the team won 4-3 against both #40 Boise State #67 University of San Diego. However, they lost to Oregon, who the Gauchos beat 6-1 on Feb. 24 in their biggest victory against a Pac-10 team in a decade. They also lost to #43 Pepperdine 7-0 on Tuesday and play #13 Rice the day before they host the Gauchos.
“We had a lot of confidence after we beat Oregon [knowing] that they beat Irvine,” sophomore Josh Finkelstein said. “But the loss to Cal Poly really hit us hard. We’re going to have to play well this weekend for sure.”
The Highlanders, meanwhile, are 0-3 in Big West play and are in last place in the conference standings. Irvine handed them their last loss 6-1 on Mar. 1.
Finkelstein holds the Gaucho’s best singles record this season at 5-1. Freshman Alexander Konigsfeldt holds the second best singles record at 4-3 despite losing two consecutive matches after banging his right knee against the concrete against UCLA. Together, Finkelstein and Konigsfeldt hold the best doubles record at 4-2.
According to Head Coach Marty Davis, the Gauchos still have a chance to take the conference with a win against Irvine on Saturday. He plans to mix up the singles lineup, basing his decision on how things go between the match against Irvine on Saturday and the match against UC Riverside on Sunday. The two teams with the best conference records get to bypass the first round of the Big West Tournament.
“It’s going to be tough for any team to go through the Big West undefeated,” Davis said. “We have got to be more patient and consistent in singles play and more aggressive in doubles. [To beat Irvine], we’ve got to play with all the passion and spirit that was not evident in our Cal Poly match.”