To help prepare for the hostile Cal Poly fans in the Mustang Tennis Complex in San Luis Obispo, the UCSB men’s tennis Head Coach Marty Davis has employed a role-playing exercise during practice in the recent weeks. In the exercise, the team’s upperclassmen pretend to be Cal Poly fans and harass the freshmen.

“For foreign and international players, [they have] never been exposed to anything like the college tennis atmosphere,” Davis said. “At this point, we have not played in a hostile environment on the road.”

The Gauchos’ postseason chances may depend on their success against their conference rivals today, weather pending, as a win would guarantee UCSB the second seed in the conference, along with a first round bye in the Big West Championships in Indian Wells. The winner of the conference tournament, which begins on April 30 and takes place over three days, receives an automatic bid to play in the NCAA Tournament in Athens, Georgia.

Davis believes that the 4-10 Mustangs will not fold without difficulty. Cal Poly has split its two conference matches.

“Their win-loss record is deceiving,” Davis. “Cal Poly’s very good this year. Better than last year’s team for sure. They’ve played a really, really difficult schedule to date.”

UCSB has also played some tough teams. Over spring break, they faced three ranked opponents. On March 23, the Gauchos were trounced 6-1 by #19 Washington before losing 4-3 to #35 Northwestern the next day. They then beat #32 BYU in a 4-3 thriller on March 26, in a rematch of their 5-2 loss to the Cougars in Utah on Feb. 6. The Gauchos recorded their first 7-0 sweep of the season against Dartmouth to close out their spring break schedule.
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.

Against Dartmouth, Davis started three freshmen, rather than two, in replacement of senior Scott Hohenstein, who tweaked his back during doubles play but is ready for the match against Cal Poly. Freshman Max Glenn filled in the sixth slot with a 6-3, 6-2 win. Glenn is now 2-0 as a starter. Freshman Lucas Sudow leads the team with an 11-3 record. Against Washington, he recorded the Gaucho’s only win, 6-2, 6-1.

“Sudow’s been phenomenal,” Davis said. “It was an unbelievable win against Washington. He beat the guy from Washington, and he beat him badly.”

At 11-4, freshman Benjamin Recknagel holds the Gauchos’ second best singles record.

“Sudow and Recknagel are playing extremely well together in doubles,” Davis said. “We’re super stoked with how all these [freshmen] guys are coming along.”

With the exception of senior Team Captain Josh Finkelstein, who was recently named one of two Big West Scholar Athletes of the Year, the remaining members of the squad are healthy. Finkelstein’s hand injury has kept him out of the starting lineup since early February. Even junior Philip Therp, who won 2008 Big West Player of the Year but spent a majority of last season out with injuries, is back in form. Therp won his first singles match of the season against BYU and has continued his success against Dartmouth.

“In some respects, we’re just getting started,” said Davis.

The Gauchos’ match against Cal Poly is scheduled to start at 2:00 p.m.