The UCSB men’s tennis team lost 4-3 on Saturday to #1 USC. While the match was chalked in the loss column, it shows that the Gauchos are a far cry from the team that lost 4-0 to USC in the first round of last season’s NCAA tournament. After beating the Gauchos, USC went on to win the 2009 National Championship.

“You go 4-3 with the defending champs and it’s a really good result,” senior team captain Josh Finkelstein said. “At the same time, everybody was a little disappointed.”

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 Trojans (2-0 overall) swept the doubles point, giving the Gauchos’ three doubles teams their first losses of the season. In singles, the Trojans opted out of playing two of their starters, #14 Robert Farah and #116 Jaak Poldma. The decision almost cost them the win.

The Gauchos (1-2 overall) won in the fourth, fifth and sixth singles slots but lost in the top half of the order. Freshman Benjamin Recknagel, playing in the fifth slot, won 6-1, 4-6, (10-4) after his opponent Daniel Gliner cramped up, giving Recknagel an easy time in the third set. Although the three-set match was the last court to finish, the match came down to the first singles slot, where Gaucho junior Alex Konigsfeldt played two close sets against Trojan sophomore Steve Johnson, the preseason top-ranked player in the country.

Johnson won the first set 6-3 and was ahead 4-3 in the second set before Konigsfeldt took two straight sets, bringing the score to 5-4 in Konigsfeldt’s favor and putting the Gauchos one game and one set away from an upset.

“Alex made it even in the second set at 4-4 and I think it made the USC coaching staff uncomfortable,” Gaucho Head Coach Marty Davis said. “It was a lot closer than they would have liked it.”

Instead, Johnson hit some forehand winners and brought the momentum back in his favor, tallying a 6-3, 7-5 victory.

“The other guy was just too good,” Finkelstein said of Johnson.

Finkelstein earned a 6-3, 6-3 win in the fourth slot against the Trojan’s Jason McNaughton, a win that Davis called “particularly impressive.”

“At first I was like, is this all this guy really has? But he has a really good record, so it was a good win for me,” Finkelstein said.