HONOLULU - The UC Santa Barbara men's tennis team dropped its season opener on Friday, losing to No. 16 Mississippi State by a score of 5-2 in Honolulu. The score, however, doesn't tell half the story.
The Gauchos pushed the Bulldogs to the limit. After dropping the first doubles match at the No. 3 position, UCSB powered back with wins at No. 1 and No. 2. At No. 1, Mathieu Forget and Mbonisi Ndimande recorded an 8-5 win while at No. 2, freshman Greg Scott and Axel Bouillin beat their opponent 8-6.
The singles didn't start well for Santa Barbara as MSU won the first set on four of six courts. At No. 3, Scott rallied from a set and 4-1 down, breaking back to 4-4 in the second set and taking Mazte Stropp, who is ranked 90th in the nation, to the limit. Stropp won the second set, 6-4 and the match was tied at 1-1.
Playing No. 6, Ziad Sultan was next off as he recorded a solid 6-3, 6-3 win over Ethan Wilkinson. Another freshman, Sultan gave the Gauchos a 2-1 lead.
Benjamin Recknagal lost the first set at No. 2, but easily won the second 1-6. He then served for the set at 5-3 in the third, but ultimately lost in a tiebreaker, 7-6.
At No. 5, Bouillin was up a set and tied in the second at 4-4, but George Coupland, ranked 32nd in the country despite playing No. 5, came back for a hard-fought 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 win. Forget and Ndimande were swept at No. 1 and No. 4 respectively.
"Give full credit to the Bulldogs," said UCSB head coach Marty Davis. "They didn't panic and played some great tennis to secure some good wins. But we played very well and I'm excited about that."
The Gauchos return to action in Honolulu on Saturday when they play Gonzaga at 5:00 p.m. (PST). They will play the Host University of Hawai'I on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. (PST).
No. 16 Mississippi State 5, UCSB 2
#1 Forget/Ndimande (UCSB) def. Cant/Stropp (Miss St) 8-5
#2 Scott/Bouillin (UCSB) def. Ilyushin/Wilkinson (Miss St) 8-6
#3 Coupland/Chaudry (Miss St) def. Recknagel/Gryaznov 8-2
#1 Artem Ilyushin (Miss St) def. Mathieu Forget (UCSB) 6-1,7-6
#2 James Chaudry #79 (Miss St) def. Benjamin Recknagel (UCSB) 6-1,1-6,7-6
#3 Mazte Stropp #90 (Miss St) def. Greg Scott (UCSB) 6-2,6-4
#4 Louis Cant #45 (Miss St) def. Mbonisi Ndimande (UCSB) 6-4,6-4
#5 George Coupland #32 (Miss St) def. Axel Bouillin (UCSB) 5-7,6-4,6-1
#6 Ziad Sultan (UCSB) def. Ethan Wilkinson (MIss St) 6-3,6-3
UCSB SEASON RECORD: 0-1; BIG WEST 0-0