The #60 UCSB men’s tennis team will drive to Malibu on Thursday for a 2 p.m. match against #13 Pepperdine, the second-highest ranked team the Gauchos face all season.
“It’s a huge opportunity for us,” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “They’re very good and I think we’re very good. They’re ranked really high, but we’ve looked at the results and they’ve been sneaking past some teams.”
The Gauchos (11-6 overall) have beaten two of the six ranked opponents they have faced so far. Since losing a 4-3 heartbreaker to #52 Fresno State last Friday, the Gauchos dropped four slots in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, further decreasing their already slim chances of earning one of 32 at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament. The only viable way for the Gauchos to earn a trip to the postseason would be to win the three-day Big West Tournament in Indian Wells, which begins on April 24. Winning against conference contenders UC Davis and Pacific over the weekend was not enough to make up for the loss to the Bulldogs, but the Gauchos finished conference play with a 4-1 record, securing a first seed in the Big West and a bye in the first round of the conference tournament.
“We’re taking it one match at a time, not really thinking about the tournament right now,” sophomore team captain Josh Finkelstein said. “It was inevitable that our ranking would drop, [because #70 UC] Irvine took a couple losses recently and Irvine was Fresno’s second-best win.”
According to Finkelstein, Fresno State performed well in its 5-2 loss to Pepperdine on April 6.
“We might match up against Pepperdine pretty well,” Finkelstein said. “We need to compete at every position. We almost have to take the doubles point to win.”
Pepperdine (13-6) boasts two ranked players on their singles roster. Sophomore Bassam Beidas from Cairo, Egypt, who is the 21st-ranked player in the country, has won 16 consecutive matches at the second singles spot. Senior Andre Begemann, ranked sixth in the country, had won 11 consecutive matches before losing to Fresno State junior Rudolf Siwy on April 6.
“Their top two guys carry [Pepperdine] through most matches,” junior Bijan Hejazi said. “But Pacific was a huge match for us because their top four guys were supposed to be impenetrable, at least in the Big West, and we only lost at number one. [Pepperdine] is another test at a higher level, but we have good morale going into this.”
For UCSB, senior Jack Hui has won 10 of 11 matches since he started the season 2-4. Freshman Alexander Konigsfeldt holds the second-best singles record on the team at 11-5. The duo of Konigsfeldt and Finkelstein also provided the Gauchos with a team-best 10-5 record, while the team of senior doubles specialist Nigel Barton and Hejazi hold the second-best doubles record at 10-6.