PALO ALTO, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara has been in search of a win at the NCAA Tournament for more than two decades. Friday, the Gauchos (17-6 overall) finally got over the hurdle, upsetting No. 22 Texas Tech 4-1 in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament to give the program its first win at the NCAA's since 1998.
"It feels fantastic, great, all of that. This has been a long time coming. We have built this program the right way that this was inevitable. It is nice to finally get over this hurdle," Head Coach Marty Davis said.
This is Davis' first NCAA Tournament victory in his 20-year tenure, and first in 12 appearances in the tournament, as head coach for the Gauchos. Santa Barbara has now won 14 of its last 16 matches since starting the year 3-4 overall. Also, despite the match being called at 4-1, UCSB very much could have pulled off a 6-1 win over No. 22 Texas Tech, proving just how dominant this team is.
Still, the day did not start so well for Santa Barbara. Losses on courts one and two in doubles gave Texas Tech the early 1-0 lead.
For senior co-captains Nicolas Moreno de Alboran and Anders Holm, it was their first loss following an eight-match win streak on court number one. The No. 64 pairing lost 6-4 while Victor Krustev and Guillin were bested 6-3 on court number two.
In singles, however, the Gauchos flipped the script. Much like last year against USC in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament, UCSB came out with a tenacity that helped them capture early first set wins on four of the six courts.
Senior Hironori Koyanagi was the most impressive man on the court for either team, but especially the Gauchos, as his 6-1, 6-0 win at court number four tied the match at 1-1 but also gave the team a much-needed boost after a not so stellar doubles performance.
"After we lost the doubles point the energy was kind of negative and I knew this could possibly be my final match if we didn't win so I just wanted to fight for every single point and it all worked out for me," Koyangai said.
Koyanagi was one of two Gauchos to earn a straight-set win, although, Joseph Rotheram's came much, much harder.
After a 6-2 first set victory, Rotheram found himself down 0-3 to start the second set. The Manhattan Beach, Calif. native battled back to tie the set at 3-3 and went on to break his opponent at 5-5 to then hold serve at 6-5 and earn the 6-2, 7-5 win giving UCSB a 2-1 lead.
The two UCSB players that dropped first sets, Moreno de Alboran on No. 1 and Krustev on No. 3, both bounced back to force third sets.
In particular, Moreno de Alboran ranked No. 16 in the country, found himself down 40-0 at 3-3 in the second.
The savvy senior turned that game around to take a 4-3 lead and rode that to a 6-3 second set win. The New York native then took care of business in the third earning him a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over TTU's Parker Wynn, ranked No. 75, at the top court to give UCSB a commanding 3-1 lead.
Holm on court six looked like he would seal the win for the Gauchos up 5-2 in the third but cramps really got the better of him, allowing Artem Kapshuk to capitalize and tie the match back at 5-5.
Luckily, just as that happened Guillin, ranked No. 53 in the country, bested his opponent, No. 102 Tommy Mylnikov in three sets, 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-3
sending the Gauchos to the second round of the NCAA Tournament where they will face No. 12 Stanford following its dominant, 4-0 win over Fresno State.
"This is insane. For years losing in the first round and being so close that finally being able to win this first round is such an amazing feeling," Moreno de Alboran said. "It feels good to be passed this threshold, but we are not done yet."
Stanford, also the hosts of this NCAA regional, has won five of its last six including the Fresno State win, and has never lost to UC Santa Barbara holding a record of 12-0. Additionally, since 1996, UCSB has only advanced to the Sweet 16 once.
That does not faze this UCSB team.
"Stanford may be ranked No. 12 but that doesn't mean anything. We are not done yet, we are a really, really good team and I expect we will play better tomorrow even with how well we played today. I am just excited for tomorrow," Davis said.
The second-round match will be played at 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 4 at the Taube Family Tennis Center.