SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — The 2017-18 season is off to a good start for the UC Santa Barbara men's tennis team who began the year with a bang blanking SMU 4-0 to advance to the ITA Kick-Off Classic championship round against No. 5 USC tomorrow. The winner of Saturday's match will earn an invitation to the ITA National Team Indoor Championship.
Per usual come dual season, the day began with doubles and the Gauchos were able to pull out two tough wins to secure the point.
The dominant duo of juniors Nicolas Moreno de Alboran and Anders Holm were able to earn the first victory of the evening pulling out a 6-3 win over SMU's Tomas Vaise and Jan-Simon Vrbsky. Moreno de Alboran and Holm are currently ranked No. 44 in the ITA doubles rankings.
Senior Simon Freund and redshirt freshman Joseph Rotheram were able to pull out the second win in a tough match against Charles Nettlefold and Roberto Rosales. They clinched the doubles win off a deuce point at 6-5 in order to secure the 7-5 win and the pair also had to battle back from a 40-15 deficit in the prior service game.
The third match was suspended due to the Gauchos clinching the point with the wins on courts one and two, however, that one was close as well as newcomers for UCSB Joseph Guillin and Victor Krustev put together an exciting match as it was tied at 6-6 in a tiebreaker with SMU having a 6-4 advantage before being called off.
"Doubles was extremely close and exciting, winning on court one with our nationally ranked pair was huge," Head Coach Marty Davis said. "We snuck through the doubles, basically but then we obliterated them in singles."
Just as coach stated, the Gauchos dominated singles play. Holm won the first match on court three eliminating SMU's Nettlefold easily, 6-2, 6-0. The newcomers Guillin and Krustev were the other two Santa Barbara athletes that secured the opening day win for UCSB as they won 6-2, 4-0 (ret. Inj) and 6-2, 6-2 on courts four and five, respectively.
Freshman Hironori was also putting together a solid performance in his first day representing UCSB as he was winning 5-1 in the second set, having won the first 6-2, when the match was called due to the Gauchos sealing the win.
"I was really impressed today especially with a lot of our newer guys," Davis said. "Most got a very impressive win under their belt to start, and even though Hiro didn't technically win he looked very good and was on his way to the victory."
Moreno de Alboran and Freund both had tougher matches on the first and second courts, respectively. Moreno de Alboran, ranked No. 42 in the country, actually dropped his first set against Vrbsky in a tiebreaker, 7-6 (3).
The New York native was, however, winning the second set 2-0 before it was called. As for Freund, the senior won the first set 6-4 and was in a fight in the second leading just 4-3 when the match was called.
"Overall, I was very impressed with our singles play, we got off to good starts and just did not let up. We were ruthlessly efficient, especially in the second set of these matches," Davis said.
With the win, the Gauchos now have a date with the No. 5 Trojans a team that has made it to the ITA National Team Indoor Championship 10 consecutive years. UCSB has also only beaten USC once in 19 tries throughout the two programs history.
"They are going to be very, very good," Davis said. "Still, in both doubles and singles, I think we can hang with them. They know we have talent as well and I am sure our guys will be plenty fired up for this one."
USC has a boatload of ranked talent but their top athlete is No. 6 ranked Brandon Holt. The sophomore was dominant during fall tournament season winning the Oracle ITA Masters crown and earned a convincing win over Indiana's Raheel Manji 6-4, 6-3.
The Trojans are also very talented in doubles as they crushed Indiana in doubles dropping just one game in all three matches. Overall, USC defeated Indiana 6-1.
For UCSB, a win against a top-tier program would certainly be a step in the right direction for a team that has constantly and consistently been making great strides.
"A win would be such a next level win for us," Davis said. "Last year we lost 4-3 to three top 10 teams so we feel like we are getting close and this would definitely be a breakthrough match for us."
UCSB takes on No. 5 USC at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 27th at Marks Stadium at USC.
UC Santa Barbara 4, SMU 0
Order of finish: 1, 2
(1) Jan-Simon Vrbsky (SMU) vs. Nicolas Moreno de Alboran (UCSB) — 7-6(3), 0-2 susp.
(2) Tomas Vaise (SMU) vs. Simon Freund (UCSB) — 6-4, 4-3 susp.