SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The 2017-18 campaign has come to an end for the UC Santa Barbara men's tennis team as a 4-1 loss to No. 10/10th-seeded USC ended what has been yet another great season for this program under Head Coach Marty Davis. The Gauchos end the year 18-7 overall and had plenty to be proud of despite a tough loss.
"We had a really bad start in the doubles, we were pressing too much early and even in singles we didn't look so hot to start but we settled down and made a hell of an effort," Davis said. "For about 30 minutes of the match time we really were the ones in control and we just let the matches slip away so that is disappointing. Taking a step back we played them much tougher this time than the last and it's clear we improved quite a bunch so that's a bit gratifying."
With the win, the Trojans (18-8 overall, 6-2 Pac-12) advance in the NCAA Tournament and will face Harvard in the Round of 32 at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Marks Tennis Stadium.
Despite what the score says, this match went right down to the wire with four of the six singles matches being pushed to three sets. Additionally, the UCSB fans traveled well today and were a big reason for why the Trojans were caught off guard so early.
In doubles, however, the matches were anything but close. USC's top pair consisting of Brandon Holt/Riley Smith defeated the No. 85 ranked pair of Nicolas Moreno de Alboran/Anders Holm, 6-1. Over on court three, sophomore transfer Joseph Guillin and freshman Victor Krustev were bested 6-3 and on court two, senior Simon Freund and redshirt freshman Joseph Rotheram were down 5-0 but battled back to make it 5-2 when their match was called.
Up 1-0, it seemed as though the Trojans would be able to roll past the Gauchos easy, but that turned out not to be the case as the visiting 'Chos had four players take the first set. The most impressive of the bunch was the senior captain, Freund, who battled back from 5-1 down to earn a 7-6 (3) win in the first.
"I was really happy to pull off that first set, it was huge," Freund said. "We had all the momentum going early but these guys are good and we did everything we could. We were right there and the win felt so close but we just missed it."
On court one, Nicolas Moreno de Alboran was down 3-2 but won the next four points to take the set 6-3 while Guillin won 6-2 and Krustev won 6-3 over on court six.
USC would go up 2-0 after senior Thibault Forget defeated Holm in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3 but just moments later, Krustev answered back with a 7-5 victory in the second set to bring the score back to 2-1. Just like the last time these two teams met, Krustev was the only UCSB to earn a win against the Trojans.
After dropping the first set 6-2, junior transfer Hironori Koyanagi bounced back nicely as he would win the second set 6-4. Unfortunately, he would be unable to secure the win in the third giving the Trojans a 3-1 advantage.
Down 3-1, the Gauchos needed wins on the top three courts, which were all in their third set, in order to win the match. Freund was well on his way to do so as he was up 5-3 in the third, and Guillin was battling down 6-5. Unfortunately, however, neither of those matches reached conclusion as the No. 10 ranked Holt bested Moreno de Alboran 3-6, 7-5, 6-2.
"It is really tough against a team like this to get off to a tough start the way we did but I could not be more proud of this team and how we battled back and really put ourselves in the best possible position to win this match. It felt like we were playing at home with all the supporters here and this whole experience was awesome," Freund said.
Despite such a valiant effort, overall, UCSB has got to be feeling upset with how the day went. The Gauchos were never supposed to beat the Trojans and yet they had them right where they wanted them. Guillin was up 4-1 in the second set before he would lose it 7-5 and Moreno de Alboran was dominating Holt early with chances to go up two break points twice in the second before blowing both and ultimately dropping the set. There were many other similar moments that had the Gauchos converted it could have been a different outcome.
"We put ourselves in a position where we should have won this match so it is frustrating especially for our senior who didn't even get to finish his match," Davis said. "But this program is headed in the right direction and Simon played a big part in that. Ultimately, we hope the guys coming back use this as extra motivation to get better come next year."
Ultimately, Saturday was another good step for the UCSB men's tennis program as it again displayed a performance that is on par with powerhouses and even capable of knocking them off. Still. seeing as how UCSB will return with a team that has nearly its entire core group coming back, it is easy to get excited and think maybe next year will be that one magical year.
UCSB's season is over, however, Moreno de Alboran will still be in action for the NCAA Singles Championships which begin May 23rd and is hosted by Wake Forest University.
No. 10 USC 4, UC Santa Barbara 1
May 12, 2018 – Marks Stadium | Los Angeles, Calif.
- #10 Holt/R. Smith (USC) def. #85 Moreno de Alboran/Holm (UCSB) – 6-1
- #9 Jaede/Verboven (HU) vs. Freund/Rotheram (UCSB) – 5-2 susp.
- Cukierman/T. Smith (HU) def. Guillin/Krustev (UCSB) – 6-3
Order of Finish: 1, 3
USC wins doubles point
- #11 Brandon Holt (USC) def. #67 Nicolas Moreno de Alboran (UCSB) – 3-6, 7-5, 6-2*
- #74 Daniel Cukierman (USC) vs. Joseph Guillin (UCSB) – 2-6, 7-5, 6-5 susp.
- Jack Jaede (USC) vs. Simon Freund (UCSB) – 6-7 (3), 6-4, 3-5 susp.
- Thibault Forget (USC) def. Anders Holm (UCSB) -6-2, 6-3
- Riley Smith (USC) def. Hironori Koyanagi (UCSB) – 6-2, 4-6, 6-4
- Victor Krustev (UCSB) def. Jack DeVine (USC)– 6-3, 7-5
Order of Finish: 4, 6, 5, 1*