Gauchos to Face-Off Against No. 11 Seed Pepperdine in First Round of NCAA Tournament, Friday

Benjamin Recknagel (Photo Credit Big West)
Benjamin Recknagel (Photo Credit Big West)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – After taking the Big West title and earning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, the Gauchos are set to face No. 11-seeded Pepperdine for the first round of action at the  Ralphs-Straus Tennis Center in Malibu on May 10 at 1 PM.

The Gauchos secured their 10th trip to the NCAA Tournament after recording three upset victories in four days at the Big West Tournament, defeating Hawaii, UC Irvine, and Pacific en route to their 8th Big West title in school history. UCSB is the first team in Big West history to enter as a 5th seed and win the tournament.

At the tournament, UCSB was led by the play of sophomore Ziad Sultan, who went undefeated in singles and partnered Mbonisi Ndimande to two wins in doubles to help the Gauchos capture the doubles point in each of their three matches. Senior Benjamin Recknagel also had a big part in the Gauchos' run to the Big West title, winning two of his singles matches, including the clincher against No. 1 seeded UC Irvine and a quick victory in singles to give the Gauchos the lead in the title game.

The Gauchos have seen strong play from their seniors all year, with both Mbonisi Ndimande and Benjamin Recknagel named to the First Team All-Big West Conference in singles. UCSB also saw improved play in doubles, with Mbonisi Ndimande/Ziad Sultan nabbing first team all-league honors and Benjamin Recknagel/Axel Bouillin selected to the second team. Sophomore Axel Bouillin was also named to the Second Team All-Big West in singles.

The Gauchos will need that dominating play when they take on WCC Champions Pepperdine in the opening round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

Pepperdine enters the NCAA Championships as the No. 11 seed after winning their 40th consecutive West Coast Conference Title and posting an impressive 24-5 record on the season. The Waves' only losses on the year came against teams ranked in the top-10, though they did struggle against #38 BYU in the conference title match.

The Waves are led by No. 11-ranked player Sebastian Faneslow, who went 19-6 in dual matches this season, playing all his matches at the No. 1 position. Pepperdine also boasts three more nationally ranked players including the No. 62-ranked player in the country, Alex Sarkissian, who posted a 20-4 record in dual matches that includes a perfect 9-0 at No. 2 singles.

The Waves other ranked players are No. 102 Francis Alacantara and No. 107 Finn Tearney, who are also nationally ranked in doubles, pairing up as the No. 43 team in the country.

Pepperdine is making their 33rd appearance in the NCAA Tournament and have gone 51-31 overall in their tournament history. Last season, the Waves defeated Green Bay and Washington at home before defeating Tulsa and Georgia to reach the semifinals.

The winning squad in the match between the Gauchos and the Waves will move on to the second round to face the winner of LSU-Stanford on May 11 in Malibu at the Ralphs-Straus Tennis Center.