SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – No. 37 UC Santa Barbara will carry a school record 12-match winning streak into its NCAA Tournament First Round contest against 27th- ranked Mississippi when the teams meet at 10:00 a.m. on Friday at the Sunset Canyon Tennis Courts on the UCLA campus.
The red-hot Gauchos are 19-5 overall with four of the five losses coming against top-10 opponents. Their 19 victories are the most recorded by the program since the 1997 team also won 19 and the .792 winning percentage is the highest in school history. For the second straight year, they are also the highest ranked non-football playing school in NCAA Division I.
UCSB will be playing in its third consecutive NCAA Tournament, fourth in the last five seasons, eighth in the last 12 years and 13th overall.
"Generally, we're playing really well right now," said 2017 Big West Coach of the Year Marty Davis. "I think we are in a good position to get the program's first NCAA win in 19 years."
The Gauchos are led by senior captain Morgan Mays who became the program's first Big West Player of the Year since 2009. Mays has compiled a 13-9 dual match record while playing at No. 1 and No. 2 in the lineup. He and his doubles partner, Simon Freund, have been invited to play in the NCAA Doubles Championship later this month.
"Morgan has been this team's leader from day one," Davis said. "He has led by example and the team has followed him. He is the best captain I've had here and it would be great to see him end his career with a win in the NCAA Tournament."
Mays and Freund, a Second Team All-Big West selection in singles, were named First Team All-Big West in doubles.
Sophomore Nicolas Moreno de Alboran was also a named first team all-league. He'll enter the match against the Rebels with a 13-10 dual match record while playing No. 1 and No. 2 in the lineup. Freund (18-6) and Anders Holm (20-4) were named Second Team All-Big West while playing at No. 3 and No. 4 respectively. Rounding out the Gauchos' singles lineup will likely be No. 5 Cody Rakela (19-4) and No. 6 Chase Masciorini (13-8) or Teague Hamilton (1-0), who recently returned from a shoulder injury.
Joining the Mays-Freund doubles team (13-4 dual match record), which is ranked 35th nationally, will likely be Holm-Moreno de Alboran (14-6) and No. 2 and Rakela and Kristian Prior (7-7) at No. 3.
Ole Miss will be playing in its 24th consecutive NCAA Tournament and its 26th overall. The teams will be meeting in postseason for the second time. The only other match between the teams came in the Sweet 16 of the 1997 when the Rebels swept the Gauchos 4-0.
Ole Miss, which lost to Florida in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament, is led by junior All-American Gustav Hansson, who is ranked 23rd nationally. Hansson is 20-11 overall and 11-7 at No. 1 singles. He will enter Friday's match having won six in a row. Sophomore Fabian Fallert has won 11 consecutive matches and is 18-3 in dual matches. He finished 10-1 in Southeastern Conference play. Fallert and Grey Hamilton are the 19th-ranked doubles team in the nation.
"We don't know a lot about them," Davis said. "But we know that they play in a great conference and have a lot of good wins."
The Gauchos do have one connection to the Rebels as Freund played two seasons at Louisiana State, another member of the Southeastern Conference.
"We're going to depend on Simon to give us a scouting report," Davis said. "He's seen most of their players play and that's what we have to go on."
The winner of the UCSB-Old Miss match will play the winner of the UCLA-Army match on Saturday, May 13 at 1:00 p.m. at the Sunset Courts on the Westwood Campus.