For the first time in four years, the #59 Gaucho men’s tennis team was unable to end the season with a win in the Big West Tournament in Indian Wells after losing to Cal Poly 4-3 in the semifinals on Saturday afternoon under breezy conditions.

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Sophomore Mathieu Forget comes to the net in a match earlier this season. Forget was a versatile singles player this season, filling in anywhere from the second to fifth position.

“I feel like if we would have won [the semifinals], we would have won the finals on Sunday,” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “This season I feel like everyone expected us to win. But we didn’t. It shows you how competitive [the Big West] is.”

While the loss guarantees that the Gauchos (14-11 overall) will not earn an automatic bid to advance to play in the NCAA National Championships this season, they still earned their highest national ranking in years and thus will play in the National Indoor Championship in Fall 2010, an honor bestowed upon the top 60 teams in the country. UC Irvine beat Cal Poly in the final round on Sunday, ending its regular season ranked 57th nationally.

“We didn’t fall in the rankings as much as we expected to,” Davis said.

In the first match of the tournament against UC Davis on Friday, the fourth-seeded Gauchos swept fifth-seeded Davis 4-0.

“We got off to a good start against [the Aggies],” Davis said. We thought we played well … we were very efficient.”

In Saturday’s rematch of the Gauchos’ 6-1 loss at Cal Poly on March 31, the Gauchos took the doubles point after sophomore Mathieu Forget and junior Taylor Chavez-Goggin broke serve to win 8-6 on the first doubles court, giving the Gauchos a 1-0 lead.

In singles, the Gauchos won the first set on three of the six singles courts. Four of the six matches went to three sets, but junior Philip Therp, freshman Lucas Sudow and sophomore Mathieu Forget were unable to close out their grueling, three-set matches in the first, third and fifth slots, respectively.

Forget and his Mustang opponent Brian McPhee both experienced leg cramps after three hours on the court. Losing 4-2 in the final set, Forget fell to the ground and was treated by Gaucho trainer Bob Annable. However, he was only able to scrape out one more game in his 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 loss.

“Matt kind of has a history of cramping,” Davis said. “He’s in really good shape, and it wasn’t that hot outside, so it was kind of a bummer.”

Only Konigsfeldt and freshman Benjamin Recknagel pulled out singles matches, with Konigsfeldt winning in a convincing fashion 6-3, 6-0 in the third slot. In the second singles spot against Matt Fawcett, Recknagel struggled in the first set for a 6-7 loss but won the remaining two sets 6-1.

“We thought when we recruited him that he had the potential to play one [singles] here,” Davis said of Recknagel, a player that has won 17 of his last 20 matches. “He’s my vote for [Big West] Freshman Player of the Year.”
If the NCAA approves senior team captain Josh Finkelstein’s petition for a medical redshirt, because he spent a majority of this season sidelined with a hand injury, then the Gauchos are likely to lose only one player next season — senior Scott Hohenstein.

“The future for our team looks good. But I can guarantee you Cal Poly and Irvine will [also] be better next year,” Davis said. “Our conference is getting better rapidly.”