LOS ANGELES, Calif. - The UC Santa Barbara men's tennis team came away victorious against No. 57 South Alabama on Saturday afternoon placing them in the final round of the ITA Kick Off Weekend versus No. 5 USC. USC is also the hosts of the ITA Kick Off Weekend.
"I definitely want to see some things improve but overall I was happy with how our team competeed up and down all the courts. This was a good team we were playing and it was nice to give them everything we had," Head Coach Marty Davis said.
Similar to last week, UCSB (2-0) found themselves in early trouble in the doubles point due to an early loss. Seniors Anders Holm and Nicolas Moreno de Alboran were blanked 6-0 at the top court giving South Alabama the early advantage.
Still, Santa Barbara got help from its duos at the number two and three courts to give them the 1-0 lead. Sophomores Joseph Rotheram and Victor Krustev bounced back from an ugly 6-0 loss last week and earned a 6-3 win while Joseph Guillin and Alex Dominguez Soto clinched the doubles point with a 6-2 at the No. 3 court.
In singles, the Gauchos looked like they would put away the Jaguars early. Holm earned a very impressive 6-3, 6-3 win in the No. 6 court versus South Alabama's Louis Delcour. It was Holm's first appearance in singles this season.
Continuing that trend, Guillin, ranked No. 22 in singles, then put away his opponent, No. 48 Clement Marzol, in straight sets 6-2, 6-2 to improve to 2-0 on the year and earn his first win against a ranked opponent this season.
Holding a 3-0 lead, UCSB needed just one win to lock up the match. Unfortunately for the Gauchos, South Alabama's Maxime Lapraille came up with a huge win on the No. 5 court, 7-5, 6-1 over Hironori Koyanagi. The loss drops Koyanagi to 1-1 on the year.
The tide seemed to be turning for the Jaguars after that. All remaining matches were in their third sets and at one point South Alabama had the lead in all of them setting them up for an exciting come back win.
Then, Krustev came up huge for Santa Barbara. Down 4-1 in the third set, the sophomore came up huge leveling the match at 4-4 and in total winning six of the final seven points to earn a 7-5 game-clinching win. Krustev is now 2-0 on the year.
"He really saved the day for us, the match was getting away and it was worrisome but at the end of the day we fought hard and stayed alive in matches that looked like we would not stay alive in so it was a good day for the Gauchos," Davis said.
Courts one and four would not continue playing since the Gauchos had already won 4-1. Moreno de Alboran, ranked No. 6 in the country, was down 4-5 in the third when his match was called while Rotheram was down 2-4 when it was called.
Despite the scare, the Gauchos showed a lot on Saturday. It was a great first outing for Holm in singles and UCSB will hope to continue relying on him in their bottom half of the lineup due to the fact that the top half looks really good. Both Guillin and Krustev are off to hot starts and are looking even better than last year and Moreno de Alboran is still one of the best players in the country meaning he is never out of any match.
Of course, UCSB will have a tougher time tomorrow against USC who is coming off a 4-0 win over Cal Poly. Some of the more intriguing matches include Guillin facing No. 8 Daniel Cukierman, Moreno de Alboran facing Brandon Holt and Krustev facing No. 19 Laurens Verboven. The Gauchos will need to give it their all to pull off an upset win. UCSB was bested by the Gauchos twice last year including a 4-1 loss in the First Round of the NCAA Team Championships.
UCSB will take on No. 5 USC at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 27 at USC Marks Tennis Center. The winning team will advance to the ITA National Indoor Championships comprised of the top 16 teams in the nation. Follow @UCSBTennis on twitter for updates.
ITA KICK-OFF WEEKEND | Los Angeles, Calif.