SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – With the regular season behind them, the Gauchos will turn their attention to the Big West Championships where they are set to face Hawaii on Thursday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
The 5th-seeded Gauchos previously faced the Rainbow Warriors last week, when they dropped a close 4-3 decision at the Rec Cen Courts. UCSB claimed the doubles point in convincing fashion and won two more singles matches to tie the score at 3. The match came down to a long battle at court 3, where Sasha Gryaznov was narrowly defeated by Dmytro Kovalyov in the third set tiebreaker.
UCSB played that match without top two players, Benjamin Recknagel and Mbonisi Ndimande, who were both battling injuries. Benjamin Recknagel played in the final match against Cal Poly, losing in a tight match at center court against No. 25-ranked Andre Dome while Mbonisi Ndimande sat out to get healthy for postseason play.
Due to the shorthanded lineup against Hawaii, each player moved up two spots from their normal positions. UCSB received solid wins from sophomore Ziad Sultan, who recorded a win in straight sets at the No. 2, and freshman Jacob Johnson, who also won in straight sets, at court 6. Both players carried that momentum into the season finale against Cal Poly and recorded the only two Gaucho points in the team's 5-2 loss to the Mustangs.
The Gauchos are hoping to have a healthy lineup against the 4th-seeded Hawaii squad that posted a 4-2 conference record. Hawaii is led by Dmytro Kovalyov, who compiled a 6-2 record at the No.3 position and Nils Schuhmann, who boasts a 12-5 overall record, including a 5-1 record against Big West opponents.
The winner of the match between Hawaii and UCSB will face No. 1 seed UC Irvine on Friday at 3:00 PM (PDT).
The Gauchos quest for the Big West Conference title begins on Thursday, Apr. 25 at 8:00 AM in Indio, Calif.
First Round: April 25
Match #1 – No. 2 Cal Poly vs. No. 7 UC Riverside (8:00 AM)
Match #2 – No. 3 Pacific vs. No. 6 UC Davis (8:00 AM)
Match #3 – No. 4 Hawai'i vs. No. 5 UC Santa Barbara (8:00 AM)
Semifinals: April 26
Match #5 – No. 1 UC Irvine vs. Winner of Match #3 (3:00 PM)
Match #6 – Winner of Match No. 1 vs. Winner of Match No. 2 (3:00 PM)
Championships: April 28
Match #7 – Winner of Match No. 5 vs. Winner of Match No. 6 (9:00 AM)