ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – With a new weekend in front of them, the UC Santa Barbara men's tennis team was hoping to accomplish two things: pick up its first road win of the season, and earn quality wins against ranked opponents.
"They were just really good," Head Coach Marty Davis said. "They had strong wins in singles at No. 1 and 2 and played good tennis throughout to earn the win. The obvious difference to me was that they served the ball substantially better than we did and have guys with incredible ability to serve the ball well."
Unfortunately, at least for the time being, No. 53 UCSB (5-3) has failed to capatilize on both those goals following a 5-2 loss to No. 40 Utah. For the Utes (14-1), they have now won nine straight matches including a win against New Mexico yesterday. The Gauchos will face New Mexico tomorrow to close out their weekend.
UCSB dug themselves into an early hole as they lost the doubles point. Juniors Anders Holm and Nicolas Moreno de Alboran were able to pick up a 6-2 win at the No. 1 court but over at the No. 3 court sophomore Joseph Guillin and freshman Victor Krustev dropped a 6-3 decision to Utah's Dan Little and Azat Hankuliyev.
This meant the point would be decided at the No. 2 court where senior Simon Freund and redshirt freshman Joseph Rotheram faced off against Joe Woolley and Egbert Weverink. The match was a spectacular one, forced into a tiebreaker, but unfortunately for the 'Chos, the Utes couplet picked up the 7-6 win and the doubles point.
In singles, the Gauchos were able to tie the match at 1-1 following yet another win by Guillin in singles. The transfer from Florida won his sixth consecutive match following a straight-set victory over Utah's Randy Cory, 6-2, 6-3.
However, moments later, the Utes gained all the momentum back with straight-set wins at the No. 1 and No. 2 courts against Moreno de Alboran and Freund, respectively. Utah took a 3-1 lead following David Micevski's 6-4, 6-1 victory over Moreno de Alboran and Little's 6-4, 6-2 win over Freund.
Holm would be the final Gaucho to notch a victory in this match as he picked up a solid 6-3, 6-3 win over Weverink at the No. 3 court. The Sweden native bounced back nicely following a tough three set loss last weekend against Pacific in singles.
"Gullin and Holm are both having a great season in my eyes," Davis said. "They have done a great job interchanging at the No. 3 and No. 4 spots and we have had success, we just need to pick up the pace in some other places."
With the score 3-2, UCSB still had a chance to pull off a victory. However a win for Utah at the No. 6 courts sealed the win for the Utes. Junior Hironori Koyanagi took the 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 loss.
Returning to action at the No. 5 position for the 'Chos, Krustev was unable to pick a win dropping a 6-4, 6-4 decision and ending the match at 5-2 in favor of the Utes.
"Victor hit the ball great from the baseline, his serve was a bit of a liability but overall, he is healthy and we are excited to have him back," Davis said.
For the Gauchos, this loss is a tough one. UCSB has become one of, if not the best, mid-majors in the country and wins against these types of programs, such as Utah, are much needed if it hopes to keep solidifying that position.
Quality matches of this caliber do not come every week for the 'Chos, and so when they do come, wins are important if they want to keep moving up the rankings and, more importantly, have the confidence needed to keep these wins coming.
"The good news is that we have another high quality match tomorrow, New Mexico was beaten in almost the same fashion as us so I would expect tomrrow's match to be really, really close," Davis said.
UCSB takes on No. 48 New Mexico at noon on Sunday, Feb. 25 at the McKinnen Tennis Center.
UC Santa Barbara 2, University of Utah 5
February 24, 2018; Albuquerque, New Mexico
(1) Moreno de Alboran/Holm (UCSB) def. Cory/Micevski (Utah), 6-2
(2) Woolley/Weverink (Utah) def. Freund/Rotheram (UCSB), 7-6
(3) Little/Hankuliyev(Utah) def. Gullin/Krustev (UCSB), 6-3
Order of finish: 3, 1, 2
(1) David Micevski (Utah) def. Nicolas Moreno de Alboran (UCSB), 6-4, 6-1
(2) Dan Little (Utah) def. Simon Freund (UCSB), 6-4, 6-2
(3) Anders Holm (UCSB) def. Egbert Weverink (Utah), 6-3, 6-3
(4) Joseph Guillin (UCSB) def. Randy Cory (Utah), 6-2, 6-3
(5) Santiago Serra (Utah) def. Victor Krustev (UCSB), 6-4, 6-4
(6) Joe Woolley (Utah) def. Hironori Koyanagi (UCSB), 6-1, 3-6, 6-1
Order of finish: 4, 2, 1, 3, 6*, 5