The #62 UCSB men’s tennis team conquered the Big West for the third-consecutive season this weekend, beating division rival Cal Poly 4-1on Saturday and Pacific 4-0 in the finals on Sunday in the Big West Championships at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
“We would have won all seven points [against Pacific],” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “We were really on top of things.”
The Big West Championship title gives UCSB (15-9 overall) an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament for the fifth time in seven years. ESPNEWS will televise the NCAA Tournament Selection Show for both men’s and women’s tennis at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, in which 64 teams will be given one of four seeds within 16 different regions of first-round tournament play. The Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s top-16 teams in the country will host the first two rounds of the tournament.
“Now we just need to wait and see what our draw is going to be like,” sophomore team captain Josh Finkelstein said. “I’m actually almost positive we can obtain a third seed.”
Ranked one spot behind the Gauchos in the ITA rankings at the end of the season, UC Irvine was favored to play in the championship against the Gauchos. However, Pacific upset the Anteaters in a 4-3 semifinal thriller on Saturday, pitting them against the Gauchos in the championship for the fifth time this decade.
According to Davis, teams struggle to take four singles matches against the Gauchos, which explains why the only loss UCSB has obtained after winning the doubles point was against the University of Hawaii in their season opener. This weekend was no exception to that rule, as the Gauchos took the doubles point against both Cal Poly and Pacific. In the championship, junior Max Taylor defeated Tiger junior Austin Kakar 6-1, 6-1 in the sixth singles slot, and senior Jack Hui clinched the match for UCSB at the third singles slot with a 6-3, 7-6 victory. Taylor, who defeated Cal Poly’s Blake Wardman in a second-set tiebreaker on Saturday, has yet to lose a match in Palm Springs. He now holds a team-leading 13-5 record for the season.
Davis considered sophomore Philip Therp to be the tournament MVP after he obtained two wins at the first singles slot over the weekend. Therp’s second win came against Pacific sophomore Moritz Starke, who had beaten Therp on April 6 in a third-set tiebreaker in the Tiger’s 6-1 loss.
“I definitely wanted to come out today and beat him in the desert,” Therp said. “It was so good. The win was really important to me.”
Senior Anders Dalskov played in his first singles matches this weekend since he underwent knee surgery early in the season and clinched Saturday’s semifinal match for the Gauchos with a 7-5, 7-5 victory in the fifth spot against freshman Robert Foy. The Mustangs handed UCSB its only loss during the Big West regular season.
“The win made all the rehab and all the work we had to put in worth it,” Dalskov said. “Especially in a match like [Saturday’s], when it was really important that I won. The Big West is just the beginning for us. We want to see how far we can go. “