The UCSB men’s tennis team evened out its season record this past week, picking up two victories in its three-match road trip. The team’s two wins over Northern Colorado and Boise State were its first away victories of the year and helped move the team to the No. 66 spot in national rankings.
With these two wins and a tough loss to No. 41 Denver, the Gauchos improve to 7–7, achieving .500 for just the second time this season.
“It’s a start,” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “One of our goals was to break into the rankings and we have. I think that shows how we have developed.”
After being idle for nearly three weeks, the Gauchos headed on the road where they had lost all six matches in the season. Despite the record, UCSB looked as if it was playing at home when it visited Northern Colorado and swept the match 7–0. This win put the team at an even record of 6–6 for the first time this season.
The Gauchos won the doubles point with ease behind senior Ziad Sultan, who then made his first appearance this season in singles play. He reclaimed his number one spot in the courts, which he played in most of last season. Sultan picked up right where he left off, taking the match in three sets 6–4, 4–6, 6–3.
Freshman Cody Rakela fought hard in a close match to cap off the sweep for his team. Other than Sultan, Rakela was the only player to go three sets in his singles matchup and just edged out his opponent 7–6, 4–6, 7–6.
The very next day, the Gauchos traveled to take on the University of Denver Pioneers, who ended the Gauchos’ three-match win streak. Santa Barbara was only able to pick up two victories in singles play after dropping the doubles point and fell 5–2.
Sophomore Morgan Mays was a bright spot for the Gauchos in their tough match with the Pioneers. He battled his opponent into three sets on the fourth-ranked court after being beaten in the first set 6–7. He took the remaining two, dominating 6–3, 6–4.
Sophomore Erik Johnsson played on the sixth-ranked court and had a quicker matchup taking out his opponent in just two sets. He outscored his opponent 6–4, 7–6 in just his third singles matches of the season as he has just recently been bumped to a starting role.
“Erik has been playing really well at practice,” Davis explained. “We decided to give him the shot since that spot has been shaky this year and he is playing really well.”
The Gauchos capped off their road trip and their non-conference play with a match against the Boise State Broncos. Santa Barbara looked to nearly be out of it at the start before bouncing back to win 5–2.
UCSB again struggled with the doubles point, throwing it behind 1–0, and Sultan was defeated in a very quick match on the number one court to extend the Bronco lead to 2–0.
Johnsson, who was moved up to court number five after his recent success, took the first victory for the Gauchos to help keep the team alive. He once again took a straight victory, but a close one at 7–6, 6–4. Sophomore Teague Hamilton followed just after Johnsson and tied the match at two all with his sweep of 6–3, 6–4.
The remaining three players, Mays, Rakela and junior Nathan Eshmade, went on to win their matchups and give the Gauchos a one-sided win of 5–2.
“We’ve really just been playing great tennis lately,” Davis said. “I just hope we can keep this momentum going into conference.”
The Gauchos will open up conference play with a 0–1 record having fallen to UC Irvine earlier in the season, but are an undefeated 5–0 at home, where they will face Hawaii. The match is set to start Wednesday at 2 p.m.