PALO ALTO, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara saw its 2018-19 campaign run come to an end following a 4-0 loss to No. 12 Stanford in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. Despite the scoreline, Saturday's match was actually much closer than expected with the Gauchos pushing three singles courts to three sets while also leading all three when the match was called.
"For those that watched the live stream, they know this was an incredibly close match. I really liked our chances if we could've held on just a bit longer," Head Coach Marty Davis said.
"I think we are the fittest team so I would've loved to see us play 45 more minutes, but I am just proud of how hard this team fought."
In fact, even in doubles, Santa Barbara gave Stanford a run for its money. Senior co-captains Nicolas Moreno de Alboran and Anders Holm played one of their best matches of the season besting their opponents 6-2. The No. 64 pairing in the country will still be playing tennis this season, as they are the lone representatives from the Big West at the NCAA Doubles Championships.
Unfortunately, Joseph Guillin and Victor Krustev lost on court two 2-6 leaving the doubles point to the winner of court three. Tied at 4-4, Joseph Rotheram and Alex Dominguez Soto were broken and then the Stanford duo held serve to take the match and the point.
Despite the disappointing result, the Gauchos still came out hard in singles play. UCSB took three of the six first sets but no player was able to take a straight-set win.
Instead, it was Stanford who came up with two big straight-set wins to take a commanding lead.
First, on court six, Michael Genender defeated Holm 6-3, 6-0 to snap the senior's previous seven-match win streak. Holm finishes the season 10-8 overall in dual-match play.
Much later, Krustev, who lost the first set badly 0-6, fought back hard in the second. Down 0-2 to start, Krustev would break his opponent at 3-4 then held serve to take a 5-4 lead. The two eventually got to a tiebreaker where Krustev fell down early, 5-2. Despite fighting back, the sophomore fell, 0-6, 6-7 (5) giving Stanford a 3-0 lead.
Moments before Krustev's loss, the Gauchos were already in danger of being down 3-0 as No. 16 Moreno de was down a set and in a dog fight in the second being pushed to a tiebreak as well against No. 13 Axel Geller. The UCSB senior came out the victor though 7-6 (5) to push his match to a third set.
Moreno de Alboran was up 2-0 in the third before the match was called as over on court four Hironori Koyanagi lost in three sets, 6-4, 1-6, 4-6. The senior was broken at 4-4 and then Stanford's Timothy Sah held serve to clinch the match for the Cardinal.
Guillin was leading 2-1 in the third set at court two while Rotheram was up 2-1 as well over on court five. In fact, Rotheram was nearly the Gauchos only point of the match as he won the first set 6-4 but lost a heartbreaking tiebreaker in the second, 6-7 (4).
Moreno de Alboran and Guillin will still represent UCSB at the NCAA singles championships later this month. Moreno de Alboran earned a top-16 seeding while Guillin got an at-large bid.
Overall, it was a tough way for UCSB to end its season, but the team still accomplished a lot this season. The Gauchos made history winning five-straight Big West tournament titles this season as it is a new conference record, and Friday's NCAA win over No. 22 Texas Tech was the team's first since 1998.
"We have put so much effort into this program. [Getting an NCAA win] was something we knew we were good enough to do but were never able to prove until now, my senior year which is amazing. I hope I have now laid the groundwork for these guys to keep building on what's here right now," Holm said.
"This program has meant everything to me. It has made me a better player, person. I have learned so much from my teammates and my coaches. I came here at 18 and I am a totally different person now," Moreno de Alboran said.
"This is something I will never forget in my entire life. I am so proud of my teammates and everyone. It sucks we lost but I know everybody fought and I am just so happy I even made the decision to come to UCSB from Japan. I really wanted to beat Stanford so bad, they are one of the best universities in the world, but I will always remember this team," Koyanagi said.
This program is still on the rise and despite not returning key players like Moreno de Alboran, Holm and Koyanagi, the Gauchos are still going to be a tough team next year with the players they do return and the coaching staff in place.
"These guys are super hard to replace, especially [Moreno de Alboran] who is arguably the best guy to ever play here. Nic and Anders are a great pair and Hiro really was key for us down the stretch, but overall these guys left a great legacy and now we will have to move onto next season," Davis said.
UCSB ends the season 17-7 overall winning 14 of its last 17 matches. Stanford (19-6 overall) moves on to the Sweet 16 where it will face No. 5 Virginia.