With the Big West Tournament set to begin today, the UCSB men’s tennis team is looking to channel some of its recent postseason magic that has helped it capture four of the last five league titles.
The Gauchos (9-14 overall, 2-3 Big West) are set to open the tournament with a match against UC Riverside (3-18, 1-4) at 3 p.m. at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. The team is looking to repeat its regular season performance against the Highlanders — a 7-0 blowout in Santa Barbara. After winning only two of its previous 20 matches this season, Riverside beat UC Davis in their season finale to capture the No. 5 seed in the tournament.
“That was a surprise,” UCSB Head Coach Marty Davis said. “We weren’t expecting that result. But that’s not a gimme. [Riverside] is a decent team.”
While conditions at Indian Wells are not ideal, with temperatures set to be in the high 80s to mid 90s, the team is not concerned.
“It’s going to be hot out there,” senior Alex Konigsfeldt said. “It’s going to be brutal, but we’re at a great fitness level because we’ve been practicing hard the last few weeks.”
The Gauchos have a tough road to the championship before them, as the winner of this match will play an early morning contest Saturday. In the hopes of achieving a quicker win to save energy, Davis has been emphasizing doubles play in practice the last few weeks.
“In a sense, the less time we spend on court, the better,” Davis said. “The quickest way to get off the courts is to win the doubles point. And we want to get out of there the quickest way possible.”
If UCSB wins against Riverside, it would face the No. 1 seed and reigning Big West Champions No. 49 UC Irvine (17-7, 5-0). The Anteaters went undefeated in Big West play this year, and beat the Gauchos on the road 4-3 on March 4.
“That’s the price you pay for being the No. 4 seed,” Davis said. “It’s a very tough task, scheduling-wise. Having said that, it’s the exact same position we were in when we won the championship in 2009. So it’s doable, and in fact we have done it before.”
The No. 2 Cal Poly Mustangs (14-5, 4-1), who beat UCSB 4-3 two weeks ago at the Rec Cen Courts, are the favorites to reach the Big West Championship match on the other side of the bracket.