The 2010 ITA Regional tournament kicks off on Thursday in Irvine, where UCSB men’s tennis will send four of its best players to play against the top players from Big West foes UC Riverside and Cal Poly, along with teams from the Pac-10 and from other California schools.

[media-credit id=20037 align=”alignleft” width=”161″][/media-credit]UCSB has not played since the Bulldog Classic at the beginning of the month.

“It’s a much higher level tournament,” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “It’s probably the toughest regional in the country. We’re looking for another big performance from a Gaucho.”

Last year, senior Alex Konigsfeldt reached the quarterfinals, achieving the best result of any Gaucho since 1999.

The tournament takes place over a six day period, meaning that fitness will be an emphasis for the Gauchos.

“Our training regimen is pretty tough,” senior Taylor Chavez-Goggin said. “We have weight training and fitness every day of the week so we’re pretty prepared as a team.”

The Bulldog Classic – which saw junior Mathieu Forget lose in the semifinals of the A-flight matches but also saw senior Evan Jurgensen win the tournament for the B-flight — gave Davis an opportunity to see what adjustments needed to be made before going into the far more important ITA Regionals. According to Davis, the work his team has put in over the last few weeks could allow UCSB to find success in Irvine.

“I think all four are capable of having a big tournament,” Davis said.

In addition to Konigsfeldt, a senior who is seeded 17th in the tournament, Santa Barbara will also send junior Mathieu Forget, Chavez-Goggin and sophomore Benjamin Recknagel. In doubles play, Forget will pair with Chavez-Goggin while Konigfeldt will play alongside Recknagel as the 9th-seeded doubles team in the tournament.

Because the tournament is so competitive, Davis is insistent that his players take it step by step so they do not overlook anyone.

“We’re just trying to win our first round matches,” Davis said. “Everyone in this tournament is so good.”

In addition to determining the best players in the region, the tournament also has implications on a national level. The winner of the tournament will be awarded an automatic spot in the Indoor Nationals tournament, which showcases the top-32 players in the country.

According to Davis, the tournament will feature about 90 players, a significant cutback from previous years due to budget cuts. However, he also claimed that would only cause the field to be more selective and more competitive. The top four seeds are, in order, Daniel Nguyen from USC, Nick Meister of UCLA, Chris Kearney from conference rival UC Irvine and Pepperdine’s Sebastian Fanselow, who will be Chavez-Goggin’s opponent in the first round.

“I know this tournament is so huge that every player every round will be tough,” Chavez-Goggin said. “His ranking doesn’t really matter to me. I just want to come out there playing solid, aggressive tennis. I can’t really afford to sit back.”

The first singles matches will start at 10 a.m., with Forget taking on Cal Poly’s Jurgen de Jager in UCSB’s opening match.