Back in January, Big West Men’s Tennis Coach of the Year Marty Davis laid out his goals for the team: to crack the top-40 and to head to the Sweet Sixteen. One of those goals might still be feasible.
The #58 Gauchos (15-9 overall) won’t have to travel far to make their third consecutive appearance in the NCAA men’s tennis tournament, which begins on Saturday at Pepperdine University’s Ralph-Straus Tennis Center against #22 Stanford (12-8). Number 13 Pepperdine plays #63 Hawaii (8-10) at 11 a.m. on Saturday. Both teams have beaten the Gauchos during the regular season. The winner of each match plays at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Philip Therp, the Gaucho sophomore and Big West Player of the Year, will have his hands full in the first singles slot against Cardinal freshman Alex Clayton, who is ranked seventh in the country. The Cardinal possesses two other ranked players in the singles lineup: #80 junior Matt Bruch and #124 sophomore Richard Wire.
“There’s gonna be a lot of pressure on the doubles point,” sophomore team captain Josh Finkelstein said. “I feel we have to win doubles in order to beat them.”
Stanford has won their last four matches, including a pair of 5-2 wins against #25 Washington and #29 California. Although the two teams have not met since 1990, Stanford holds a 6-1 advantage against UCSB.
This year, Gaucho junior Bijan Hejazi made First Team All-League, senior Jack Hui made the Second Team and freshman Alexander Konigsfeldt earned an Honorable Mention for Big West singles tennis. Konigsfeldt also earned a spot on the First Doubles Team with Finkelstein, while Therp and Hui made the Second Doubles Team.
“Phil might have a shot at earning a rank next year,” Finkelstein said. “But you have to get really lucky, especially with our schedule – generally players lose rankings [rather than climb them].”
The Gauchos breezed through the Big West Tournament in Indian Wells two weeks ago, avenging a regular-season loss against Cal Poly 4-1 in the semifinals and sweeping Pacific 4-0 in the championship. The tournament victory gave the team an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. With a 28-0 record, #1 University of Virginia is currently favored to win it all.