Marty Davis, head coach of the UCSB men’s tennis team, thinks his squad has the potential to make the Sweet 16.
“This is the best team we’ve had in a decade,” he said.
However, Davis knows his Gauchos have some work to do before the end of the season to reach their goal. In Honolulu last weekend, the Gauchos split matches, beating Saint Mary’s 6-1 on Sunday but losing 5-2 against #41 Hawaii in a match that Davis called “the main meal” of the road trip.
“Getting a win under our belt against a solid team [like Saint Mary’s] was great,” Davis said. “But the main event was a shot at Hawaii. That’s the team we have to beat to get into the rankings.”
In college tennis, the team that wins at least two of three doubles matches earns a doubles point that gets tallied in the total for the match. A win in each of the six singles matches counts as a full point for a player’s respective team.
The Gauchos swept the doubles point in both matches. Freshman Lucas Sudow, who started in the sixth singles slot for UCSB in his dual-match college debut, was the only Gaucho to go undefeated for the weekend, taking both of his singles matches in two sets and both of his doubles matches in the third spot 8-4 with freshman doubles partner Benjamin Recknagel. In his singles debut, Recknagel beat St. Mary’s Gavin Leon 6-2, 6-2, but lost 6-4, 7-5 to Hawaii.
“For the most part, I thought the freshmen did really well,” senior team captain Josh Finkelstein said. “I don’t really think at three doubles they’re going to lose any matches.”
Finkelstein started in the first doubles slot with junior Alex Konigsfeldt, who won 2009 Big West Player of the Year, and the pair won 8-5 against Saint Mary’s and 8-3 against Hawaii. In his first singles start of the season against Hawaii in the second slot, Finkelstein lost 6-3, 6-1. Konigsfeldt split singles matches in the first slot, winning 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 against St. Mary’s but losing 6-1, 6-2 to Hawaii’s Dennis Lajola.
“I thought we were really solid in doubles, which is good because we’re always trying to find the right doubles chemistry,” Finkelstein said. “But in singles we made a lot of little mistakes. We should have been questioning some calls a little better, some people lost their cool and got point penalties, and that sort of thing just shouldn’t happen. By the end of the season we’ll clean all that up.”
The Gauchos play three more ranked opponents before they begin league play in February, starting with top-ranked USC on Saturday, Jan. 23. Because of the team’s different skill sets, Davis has yet to establish a consistent starting lineup for the rest of the season. He claims that lineups could be decided up to right before the match.
“Normally by this time of the year it starts to become pretty clear who belongs where [in the starting lineup],” Davis said. “This year it’s not clear at all. The good news is the team chemistry is very, very good. The guys’ willingness to play in the lineup wherever it helps the team is excellent. You can imagine tennis players being very self-centered, but that’s not the case with the guys on this team.”