A week after competing in one of college tennis’ toughest tournaments, the ITA Regionals, Head Coach Marty Davis will send four players to UCLA for the 54th annual Southern California Intercollegiate Championship.
“It’s one of the oldest college tournaments on the West Coast,” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “The list of past champions is quite impressive. It’s very prestigious.”
That list of former participants includes the names of tennis legends such as Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith and Brad Gilbert, as well as former Gauchos Cory Guy and Simon Shen. Starting today, junior Alex Johnson, sophomore Ben Recknagel and seniors Alex Konigsfeldt and Evan Jurgensen, look to emulate Guy and Shen, but such a task is easier said than done.
“This is the second strongest tournament we play,” Davis said. “It’s an opportunity for the guys to beat nationally-ranked players. If they all do that they’ll get a chance to make the NCAA singles.”
One Gaucho in particular will be looking to continue to build his name up on the national stage. Sophomore Ben Recknagel made it to the Round of 16 a week ago at the ITA Regionals, beating USC’s 90th-ranked Peter Lucassen, along the way. If he continues to play well against nationally ranked players, he will earn a ranking of his own and a spot in the NCAA tournament.
“We know he’s going to play one of the [players who makes it past the qualifiers] on Thursday,” Davis said. “That’s always tough because they have already played a couple games. If he wins that he then has a rematch with Peter Lucassen, who he beat at Regionals. It’s a tough draw psychologically, but we’re looking for him to win this thing.”
Despite the implications of the potential match, Recknagel is not concerned.
“It’s obviously going to be tougher to beat him a second time around,” Recknagel said. “He’s going to prepare for me differently now that he knows I’m good. I know how to play him so I just hope I can beat him again.”
The tournament will consist of 32 players from schools including UCLA, USC, UCI, UCSB, Denver, Loyola Marymount, BYU and UCSD. USC’s Daniel Nguyen, the #1 seed and runner-up of the ITA Regionals, will also be participating. Sixteen players, including Recknagel and senior Alex Konigsfeldt, will automatically be accepted into the main draw, while the others, including senior Evan Jurgensen and junior Alexander Johnson, will play qualifying matches on Wednesday to determine if they will make the main draw.
“The level of competitions in the qualifiers is going to be high,” Davis said.
There will also be a doubles bracket, Recknagel pairing up with Konigsfeldt and Johnson with Jurgensen. Doubles play was a weak point for the Gauchos in the ITA regionals, and they need to step up this week if they want to hold on to a chance to make the NCAA tournament.
“We’re hoping to see somebody pop,” Davis said. “We’re going to continue to experiment with pairings and hopefully we’ll find somebody this week. We think that Alex and Evan could be a good pair.”
This five-day tournament comes just a week after the grueling, six-day-long ITA Regionals, and some people might be worried that fatigue would be a problem for the Gauchos. However, neither Davis nor Recknagel are worried, and both are certain that it won’t be a problem.
“I think everybody’s feeling a lot better,” Davis said. “The guys made it and survived midterms. I think we’ll feel a lot better psychologically this time.”
The first matches for the Gauchos will be Jurgensen’s and Johnson’s qualifying matches Wednesday morning. Johnson will face UC Irvine’s Steven Henderson while Jurgensen faces Tyler Loong of BYU.