The #62 UCSB men’s tennis team will face triple-digit heat and fierce Big West competition this weekend in its quest for a third consecutive Big West Tennis Championship and a bid to the NCAA tournament in May.
With a 4-1 conference record, the Gauchos are tied with #63 UC Irvine, which they beat 5-2 on March 8. Irvine, Pacific, Cal Poly and UCSB all have a shot at winning. UCSB may hold the first seed in the tournament, but their only loss in the Big West came to fourth-seeded Cal Poly on March 2 in San Luis Obispo.
“We’d like to avenge that loss,” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “Then we’d like to see Irvine in the championship.”
Since they hold the first seed, the Gauchos earned a bye in the first round and begin playing tomorrow at 3 p.m. against the winner of today’s Cal Poly-UC Davis match. In 2007, the Gauchos went 4-18 during an injury-plagued regular season and entered the Big West Tournament with the third seed before beating Cal Poly 4-2 in the championship.
This season, the Gauchos are as healthy as they have ever been. Senior Anders Dalskov, who missed most of the regular season after undergoing knee surgery, has recently been cleared to play singles in the tournament. Dalskov has been playing doubles in UCSB’s last five matches, earning a 1-0 record with sophomore team captain Josh Finkelstein and a 2-2 record while partnered with senior Jack Hui. Although he is not certain to play singles during the tournament, Dalskov will continue to be part of the doubles lineup.
At 11-5 for the season, junior Max Taylor currently holds UCSB’s best singles record. Freshman Alexander Konigsfeldt went 13-9 for the season, while Hui was 13-8.
“Jack [Hui], Alex [Konigsfeldt] and [sophomore] Philip Therp have all had terrific seasons,” Davis said. “They are terrific candidates for MVP at this point.”
UCSB left for Indian Wells on Thursday in order to acclimate to the desert heat. The tournament begins with #3 Pacific (3-2 conference) playing #6 UC Riverside (0-5 conference) at 9 a.m. UC Irvine, who also earned a bye in the first round, will play the winner of the Pacific match on Saturday at 3 p.m.
“We’re looking pretty good,” Davis said. “This week has been about getting organized after going out of town and regrouping and getting stuff sorted out. Now we’re ready to go.”