Gauchos Stun Top-Seeded UC Irvine 4-1 in Big West Semifinals; Advance to Championship Finals

Mbonisi Ndimande
Mbonisi Ndimande

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – The No. 5 seeded Gauchos upset the No. 1 seed, UC Irvine, in the Big West Championship semifinals to move on to the championship match to play for their 8th Big West title in school history.

UCSB was solid in doubles and even better in singles play to clinch a spot in the finals match to take place on Sunday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. The Gauchos improved their season record to 11-13 and sent the regular season champs home with a 5-1 record in Big West play and 9-17 record overall.

UC Irvine notched the first win in doubles with a win at court 3, where Jung/Pham defeated Andrew Riminton/Miles Seemann 8-4. The Gauchos quickly bounced back after UCSB duo Benjamin Recknagel/Axel Bouillin took an 8-4 victory over Agbayani/Hernandez at No. 2 doubles. The Gauchos sealed the doubles point with an 8-5 triumph at court 1 by Mbonisi Ndimande/Ziad Sultan.

The Gauchos carried over their momentum into singles play with straight-set wins at courts 4 and 5 to give UCSB a 3-0 lead. Sophomore Ziad Sultan was first off the court after blanking Reo Asami 6-0, 6-0 to extend his winning streak to four matches in a row. Sasha Gryaznov added another win at court 5, defeating Jonathan Hammel 6-3, 6-3.

The Anteaters answered with a win at court 3 with sophomore Axel Bouillin falling 6-3, 6-2 to Jacob Jung to make the score 3-1.

UCSB shut the door on UC Irvine with the clincher at court 2, where senior Benjamin Recknagel overpowered Tyler Pham in the third set and took the match 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Play at courts 1 and 6 was suspended after the Gauchos wrapped up the 4-1 victory.

The Gauchos advance to the Big West Tournament finals to face Pacific on Sunday to play for the conference title. The No. 3 seeded Tigers won 4-3 in a marathan match against No. 2 Cal Poly that went down the wire and ended with Daniel Alameh defeating Derek Klein at court 4 in the third set. The final match was set to begin at 9:00 AM but are now considering pushing up the start time to 8:00 AM due to expected temperatures of 103 degrees.


1. Ndimande/Sultan (UCSB) def. Cheung/Hammel (UCI) 8-5
2. Recknagel/Bouillin (UCSB) def. Agbayani/Hernandez (UCI) 8-4
3. Jung/Pham (UCI) def. Riminton/Seemann (UCSB) 8-4


1. Mbonisi Ndimande (UCSB) vs. Ryan Cheung (UCI) DNF
2. Benjamin Recknagel (UCSB) def. Tyler Pham (UCI) 6-3, 3-6, 6-3
3. Jacob Jung (UCI) def. Axel Bouillin (UCSB) 6-3, 6-2
4. Ziad Sultan (UCSB) def. Reo Asami (UCI) 6-0, 6-0
5. Sasha Gryaznov (UCSB) def. Jonathan Hammel (UCI) 6-3, 6-3
6. Jacob Johnson (UCSB) vs. Shuhei Shibahara (UCI) DNF

Order of Finish: Doubles (3, 2, 1); Singles (4, 5, 3, 2)
UCSB SEASON RECORD: 11-13; Big West 4-4