The UCSB men’s tennis team (11-6 overall) clinched the first seed in the Big West Conference after a 6-1 victory over UC Davis on Saturday and another 6-1 win over the former conference leader, Pacific, on Sunday.
The wins give the Gauchos a conference-topping 4-1 record and a bye in the first round of the Big West Tournament in Indian Wells, which begins on Apr. 24. Since they lost 4-3 to #53 Fresno State on Friday, the Gauchos would have to beat #13 Pepperdine and #36 Boise State in their upcoming four-game road stretch in order to improve their chances of earning one of the 32 at-large bids for the NCAA tournament in May. However, a bye in the Big West Tournament gives the Gauchos an easier route to the Big Dance by bringing them one step closer to earning an automatic bid.
“The first round bye is huge for us,” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “Without it, we would be playing three matches in three days [out in the desert], where it’s likely to be over 100 degrees on the courts. Having to play only two matches is much better.”
The Gauchos also honored their three departing seniors Nigel Barton, Jack Hui and Anders Dalskov on Sunday in a brief ceremony that took place after the team swept the doubles point. According to Davis, Dalskov, who missed the entire regular season after undergoing knee surgery in February, should be ready to play again in time for the Big West tournament. Barton closed out his season as a doubles specialist with an 8-2 win with his partner, junior Bijan Hejazi. Hui won all three of his singles matches this weekend, including a thriller on Sunday, in which he won six straight games to win the match 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.
“Jack showed that he had the heart, the legs and the fitness to finish his career at UCSB the right way,” Davis said. “He has been really, really good.”
Sophomore team captain Josh Finkelstein won 6-1, 6-0 in the sixth spot on Sunday before four of the other five singles matches had even finished their first sets.
“I was hitting a lot of winners,” Finkelstein said. Freshman Eric Lee joked that Finkelstein’s performance was due to Lee’s quality stringing of Finkelstein’s tennis racquet.
The Gauchos’ will head to Malibu for their match against Pepperdine on Thursday at 2 p.m.
“The match gives us a great opportunity to improve our national ranking,” Davis said. “And we have two more weeks to get incredibly fit and ready to play in the conference championships in Indian Wells.”