SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Despite beginning its season nearly two weeks late than originally planned due to a variety of reasons, the UC Santa Barbara men's tennis team is as ready as ever to begin the 2017-18 campaign off the right way as it travels south for the ITA Kick-Off Weekend at USC.
"I'm super excited for the start of the season, the team has looked really great and eager to be back out on the court," Head Coach Marty Davis said. "I'm looking to see how our energy levels are and how our grit and spirt what this team has. The talent level is high but it will be interesting to see how they will compete."
For the Gauchos, they will be coming in fresh off a wonderful 2016-17 season in which they posted a 19-6 overall record including a perfect 5-0 mark in conference play. They also won their third consecutive Big West Title last season.
Ranked No. 42 in the country in singles, Moreno de Alboran has certainly made a name for himself especially after the wonderful fall season he put in. The New York native became the first Gaucho in history to be invited to the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships.
Despite losing his opening match against then No. 7 Alfredo Perez of Florida, a match that truly went back and forth, Moreno de Alboran bounced back in the consolation draw to make a run at the championship. Unfortunately, the junior lost the consolation championship.
"Playing No. 1 will be really tough but I'm hoping to see more consistency in his level of play and I think the success will be based a lot on how he starts points (serves/return serves)," Davis said. "We know he has best forehand in the country, its one hell of a shot and its hard not to impressed"
Moreno de Alboran is also coming off a great 2016-17 campaign which saw him go 19-12 overall including 6-5 in the No. 1 spot, a spot he will most likely play all season for the Gauchos.
The junior has also won many Big West accolades including First Team honors last season and Freshman of the Year honors two seasons ago.
Alongside Moreno de Alboran will be Freund who also had a solid fall season which was hopefully a sign of good things to come for the senior. Freund made it to two consolation championships but unfortunately lost both.
Last season, the Sweden native posted an overall mark of 19-8 including going 18-7 in dual matches. He also had a perfect 7-0 conference record. The senior has show vast improvement since his early days, something coach Davis has noted, and is in prime position to have another great year.
"He has grown a lot as a singles player. He has always been a fantastic defender but now he come forward and attack and he is now twice as hard to beat," Davis said.
The Gauchos are also excited for freshman Victor Krustev and sophomore transfer Joseph Guillin to come in and make an immediate impact with the team. Krustev and Guillin were unable to participate in any fall tournaments for UCSB but have looked impressive during practice.
"Guillin transfer has looked great, we are really excited to see how he plays and Krustev, despite just getting started, has looked very good as well," Davis said.
In doubles, Moreno de Alboran and Holm will look to continue being the dominant duo they have proven to be while Freund will hope to be paired with someone that can compliment his wonderful play style.
Santa Barbara will begin the new campaign going up against unranked SMU. The Mustangs come into USC with just a 1-2 overall mark and are coming off a tough weekend in which they went 0-2 losing to Harvard 4-3 and being blanked by No. 8 Texas 4-0.
The Mustangs finished last season ranked No. 38 in the nation but are a relatively young team this year, boasting just one senior and one junior on the team. Additionally, SMU lost their top three players, all to graduation, from last season's 13-12 squad including Ronald Slobodchikov, Hunter Johnson and Yates Johnson.
All-time, SMU is 4-1 against the Gauchos with UCSB's only win coming in 2012 with a 4-3 victory.
Following SMU, UC Santa Barbara will face either Indiana or No. 5 USC on Saturday depending on the outcomes of both matches on Friday. If the Gauchos can win both matches this weekend, which will not be an easy feat, then they will be invited to play in the ITA National Team Indoor Championship.
No matter the outcome, UCSB is happy to be back out on the court, and it will hope to keep building up this wonderful program that is quickly becoming one of the best tennis programs on the west coast.
UCSB will begin its season at 2 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 26, against SMU at Marks Tennis Stadium at USC. The Gauchos will play either USC or Indiana the following day either at 10 a.m. (consolation match) or 2 p.m. (championship match).