LOS ANGELES, Calif. - The UCSB men's tennis team lost its first game of the year Sunday evening dropping a 6-1 decision to No. 5 USC in the Championship match of the ITA Kick Off Weekend. With the win, USC also punched its 11th consecutive ticket to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. UCSB (2-1) is now 1-33 against USC all-time dating back to 1929.
"The scoreboard is more lopsided than what the game was. We had some great three-set matches and I thought everyone really competed," Volunteer Coach Geoff Crosby said. "We really struggled in doubles so we have work to do there but we competed."
USC made quick work of UCSB in doubles winning at the top court and the number three court. USC's Brandon Holt and Riley Smith rolled past Nicolas Moreno de Alboran and Anders Holm, 6-1 while Daniel Kukierman and Bradley Frye defeated Joseph Guillin and Alex Dominguez Soto, 6-2.
In singles, things did not start much better for the Gauchos. USC won two games in the bottom half of the lineup to take a 3-0 lead following a win by USC's Smith over Joseph Rotheram 6-2, 6-2. Unfortunately for Rotheram, the sophomore has had a sluggish start at the No. 4 court beginning the year 0-2.
On the number five court USC's Mor Bulis bested Hironori Koyanagi 6-3, 6-2. It was Bulis's first win of his career.
Still, if UCSB is known for anything it is their resiliency, and Victor Krustev highlighted that perfectly. The sophomore came up with the biggest win of his career besting No. 19 ranked Laurens Verboven in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3. It was Krustev's second career win against a ranked opponent and, even more impressive, the Canadian native is 3-0 against USC all time.
"He has improved significantly since last year and today proved it. He played a wonderful match and it is by far the best of his career so he just has to keep improving from here," Crosby said.
Unfortunately, the Trojans secured the match a few moments later as Jake Sands defeated Holm 6-4, 6-4. Both teams agreed to play the rest out, however, leaving an opportunity for both Moreno de Alboran and Guillin to earn impressive wins.
Moreno de Alboran and Holt are no strangers to each other. Last season, the two played on the No. 1 court in both matchups and both were pushed to three sets. The same thing happened this time around but again it was Holt who got the best of the No. 6 player in the country beating him 7-6 (1), 4-6, 6-4.
Cukierman and Guillin were the final match of the day. The two met last year in the NCAA Tournament Singles match but it never got to finish. This time, it did end but it ended with No. 8 Cukierman getting the win over No. 22 Guillin 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.
The season is still very early for the Gauchos and a loss to the No. 5 team in the country is a small hindrance in what is set up to be a great season. UCSB has already notched one impressive win on the year defeating South Alabama and has many more chances for impressive wins coming.
"We are making progress and though it is small steps it is a long season and beating a team [South Alabama] that won a match at the NCAA Tournament last season. So overall we are doing better than last year and we just have to keep going," Crosby said.
UCSB's next match is against Pacific on Saturday, Feb. 2 at 1 p.m.
ITA KICK-OFF WEEKEND (Marks Stadium | Los Angeles, Calif.)
Jan. 27, 2019 (Marks Stadium | Los Angeles, Calif.)
(1) Holt/R. Smith (USC) def. Holm/Moreno de Alboran (UCSB) - 6-1
(2) Jaede/Verboven (USC) vs. Krustev/Rotheram (UCSB) - 4-2 susp.
(3) Cukierman/Frye (USC) def. Guillin/Soto (UCSB) - 6-2
Order of finish: 1, 3,
USC wins doubles point.
(1) Brandon Holt (USC) def. #6 Nicolas de Alboran (UCSB) - 7-6 (1), 4-6, 6-4
(2) #8 Daniel Cukierman (USC) def. #22 Joseph Guillin (UCSB) - 6-3, 5-7, 6-4
(3) Victor Krustev (UCSB) def. #19 Laurens Verboven (USC) - 6-2, 6-3
(4) Riley Smith (USC) def. Joseph Rotheram (UCSB) - 6-2, 6-2
(5) Mor Bulis (USC) def. Hironori Koyanagi (UCSB) - 6-3, 6-2
(6) Jake Sands (USC) def. Anders Holm (UCSB) - 6-4, 6-4*
Order of finish: 4, 5, 3, 6*, 1, 2