Gauchos Play UC Irvine in Quest for Third Straight Big West Title

Doubles duo Morgan Mays (right) and Simon Freund (left) look to bring home UCSB's third straight conference title.
Doubles duo Morgan Mays (right) and Simon Freund (left) look to bring home UCSB's third straight conference title.

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. - Top-seeded UC Santa Barbara will begin its quest for a third straight Big West men's tennis title Friday at 3:00 p.m. when it takes the No. 4 seed UC Irvine at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. 

After moving up two spots in the ITA rankings following Saturday's senior day win over Cal Poly, the 40th-ranked Gauchos look to extend their 10-match winning streak when they play the Anteaters, a 4-0 winner over Hawai'i in Thursday's first round. The teams squared-off on April 21 with Santa Barbara posting a 5-2 victory.

"It's always a great atmposphere at Indian Wells," said UCSB head coach Marty Davis. "We've been pretty comfortable there and I believe we have a chance to continue our success." 

The Gauchos head into postseason play with an overall record of 17-5, including a perfect 5-0 in Big West Conference play, and winning percentage of .773. The 17 wins are the most by the program in Davis's tenure as head coach.

The Anteaters are led by junior ace Sebastian Heim. A seven-time Big West Athlete of the Week, Heim is 13-8 in singles competition and is currently riding a five-match win streak into Friday including his 6-2, 6-2 win at the No. 1 spot Thursday.

UCSB is led by their No. 30 doubles tandem of captain Morgan Mays and Simon Freund. In their last match the duo defeated Cal Poly's Cory Pang and Ben Donovan. Mays and Freund enter postseason with a 17-5 overall record and an 11-4 mark in dual matches. They are poised to receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament next month, becoming the first Santa Barbara doubles team to advance to the tournament in over two decades.

Anders Holm and Cody Rakela enter the conference tournament as the Gauchos leaders in dual match singles victories. Holm and Rakela each went 18-4 during the regular season. Freund (16), Mays (13), Chase Masciorini (13) and Nicolas Moreno de Alboran (12) also have double-figure dual match victory totals. 

While the Gauchos have high hopes of receiving the Big West's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, they are also in position to claim an at-large as they rank among the top-40 nationally.

"I think we would have a chance (for an at-large bid)," Davis said. "But that being said, I would much rather we take care of business here (Indian Wells) so that we don't have to sweat it out."  

The winner of the UCSB-UCI match will play the winner of the match between No. 2 UC Davis and No. 3 Cal Poly for the conference title on Sunday.