No one ever said a top-40 finish was supposed to be easy.

[media-credit id=20238 align=”alignleft” width=”127″][/media-credit] In its first match of the season, the UCSB men’s tennis team heads to a neutral site in Calabasas to take on #21 Pepperdine in its first of five consecutive matches against ranked opponents.

UCSB, which received a preseason ranking of #61, will have its work cut out for it. The Waves have a roster that, after fall tournament play, boasts three players with singles rankings. Germany native Sebastian Fanselow leads the charge at #14.

“They’re just loaded,” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “Arguably one of the deeper teams in the country. It’s their first match of the year as well and at least it’s a neutral site, but they’re awfully good.”

Last season, the Gauchos finished at 14-11 and earned a second-place finish in the Big West. In the final round of the conference tournament, UCSB lost a 4-3 heartbreaker to Cal Poly, breaking its streak of four straight league tournament championships. In the fall, the Gauchos clashed with the Waves a number of times, posting a 1-4 record in singles and 1-1 in doubles.

Although the rotations have yet to be set, Davis will look to lean on some of the squad’s veterans. Junior Mathieu Forget, who played as high as second in last year’s lineups, earned an All-Big West Honorable Mention with his 11-9 singles record.

“A match like this, when we play well, can help us to validate where we are,” Forget said. “On the other hand it’s always tough to start off playing really good guys. Sometimes you wish you played a couple easier opponents first to get the confidence in. If you start losing a couple matches, you don’t feel that good and it’s hard to build it up again.”

Forget is joined by a core group consisting of seniors Alex Konigsfeldt, Philip Therp and Taylor Chavez-Goggin as well as sophomore standout Benjamin Recknagel. According to Davis, Therp is expected to play tomorrow after recovering from his second hip surgery.

“It’s a good test for us,” Chavez-Goggin said. “It throws us in the mix right away. Hopefully we’ll just implement what we’ve been working on in the fall and good things will happen.”

With that group of seasoned veterans on the roster, nerves will be one thing the Gauchos don’t have to worry about tomorrow.

“[The seniors] won’t be awestruck by playing Pepperdine at this point in their careers,” Davis said. “We should be very competitive. This is a match where we need to be competitive, I would expect to win some of the matches at the very least.”

The ball drops on Saturday at North Ranch Country Club at 1 p.m. However, the team will not have much time to rest before their Tuesday match at #6 UCLA.

“We go from a really good team to an even better team, then to the National Indoors to play Florida,” Davis said. “It’s going to be a tough start to the season.”