The UCSB men’s tennis team split matches in Utah this weekend, losing to #62 Brigham Young on Saturday and beating #53 Utah 4-3 on Sunday.
After beating Utah, the Gauchos are 2-3 overall. The win was also their first over a ranked opponent this season, and could give the team some momentum going into their first conference matches of the season at UC Riverside on Feb. 13 and UC Irvine on Feb. 14.
“I think we’re pretty confident,” senior team captain Josh Finkelstein said. “We have a lot of room for improvement, [but there’s] a lot of talent on the team. We just need to be healthy.”
Finkelstein, plagued by tendonitis in his hand, is one of three members of the Gaucho starting squad currently sidelined by injuries. Senior Scott Hohenstein sprained his wrist against BYU, and right before Sunday’s match against Utah, junior Evan Jurgensen was thrown into the starting lineup in the sixth spot after sophomore Mathieu Forget hurt his Achilles tendon. While Jurgensen plays in the third doubles spot, it was the first match he started in the singles lineup.
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.
After the Gauchos won the doubles point, Utah responded with singles wins in the first, second and fourth slots while the Gauchos won in the third and the fifth slots. With the score tied 3-3, the contest came down to Jurgensen’s match against Utah’s Stephen Jacobs, who took the first set 6-4. Jurgensen took the second set 7-6. Down 1-3 and serving at 15/40 in the third set, Jurgensen came back to win the match 6-4 for himself and for Gauchos.
“It would have been a disaster,” Gaucho Head Coach Marty Davis said. “He rallied and saved the day.”
With Jergensen having proven he can compete in singles, Davis claims he has eight guys that can start when the team is completely healthy. Junior Philip Therp, who won Big West Player of the Year in 2008, played for the first time this season after being injured for most of 2009.
“We’re hopeful he’ll be able to play singles really soon,” Davis said.
The Gauchos will get a chance to redeem themselves against BYU later this season in Santa Barbara. Both Finkelstein and Davis claimed that BYU was better than their rank entailed. The Cougars are 6-0 so far this season.
“I think they’re a top-40 team,” Davis said. “That’s the team I feel like we should beat at home.”