SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. - In all four home matches played so far this season, the UC Santa Barbara men's tennis team has come out victories by an average set score of 6-1. The Gauchos (5-4) will hope to keep that streak, and even margin, alive when they take on St. Mary's (2-5) this weekend at the Recreation Center Courts.
"We are just happy to be home," Head Coach Marty Davis said. "Our fans are the best around and we hope they will show up again this weekend. I think everybody is prepared and ready this weekend to bounce back."
Santa Barbara will hope to regain some of the confidence it lost last week on the road following losses against now No. 24 Utah and No. 46 New Mexico. The Gaels come into town having won their first game since their season opener just last week in a 4-3 win over Grand Canyon. St. Mary's is 0-3 in true road games this season.
For UCSB, the biggest storyline headed into the weekend will be the abscence of senior Simon Freund. Freund was hurt in his match versus the Lobos and will be sidelined for an indefinite period of time.
UCSB still has junior Anders Holm to fill in at the No. 2 spot, the spot primarily played by Freund. Holm this season has alternated between the No. 3 and No. 4 positions and has done a solid job currently boasting a 5-4 record in singles.
Other notable players include sophomore transfer stand out Joseph Guillin. The former Florida Gator has been tremendous for the Gauchos this season at the No. 3 and 4 spots as well with an 8-1 singles record incuding seven straight victories.
"Joe has been playing great and obviously with Simon out of the lineup he will be moving up a spot so he has put in the work and he is getting results," Davis said. "We are just anxious to get him higher in the lineup and see well he could play as he climbs the ladder."
Of course, while UCSB can rely on Holm and Guillin to keep a high pace they will still need some new faces to step up in new positions.
Freshman Victor Krustev has looked good for the Gauchos when healthy. He split his singles matches last weekend in his first week back in action following a wrist injury.
Redshirt freshman Joseph Rotheram is also going to be an interesting person to keep an eye on. The Manhattan Beach native is currently 2-0 on the season in starts at the No. 6 hole and has looked impressive in those two wins with one being a come-from-behind victory and the other being a straight-set win.
"Rotheram has looked really good this week so we could hope to see him in the line-up but nothing is set in stone. We have a strong team and we will see who steps up," Davis said.
Junior transfer Hironori Koyanagi will hope to bounce back from a tough week of action in which he lost both his singles matches. Currently, Koyanagi has lost three straight and is the only 3-4 overall on the season.
The only other Santa Barbara that has received playing time this season was true freshman Henrik Atlevi who secured a straight-set win in the Gauchos dominant 7-0 win over the University of San Francisco.
Unfortunately, where the Gauchos will miss Freund the most is in doubles play. Freund is arguably the best pure doubles player on the team and has done a great job playing with Rotheram considering his youth.
Now, UCSB will definitely need to rely on their top duo of Holm and junior Nicolas Moreno de Alboran to pull out some victories and need the No. 3 team of Guillin and Krustev to step up as well.
And while one might look at St. Mary's and think easy win for the 'Chos, Coach Davis is doing anything but.
"[St. Mary's] is dangerous. Last year we may have won 7-0 but that scoreline is deceiving. Four singles matches went three sets, including one that reached tiebreaked at 7-6 in the third so they are a quality team and their No. 1 guy is good."
This year, St Mary's returns much of that team that Coach Davis was referring to, including their top two players, sophomore Damon Kesaris and senior Nash Vollenweider. Kesaris in particular has been spectacular posting a 6-1 record in singles play. Last season, Moreno de Alboran barley edged the WCC Freshman of the Year and will look to do the same this year and bounce back from two tough losses he suffered in singles last week as well.
While the losing of Freund will be tough considering the senior captain's prescence beyond his play on the court, the Gauchos certainly have the talent and depth to put something together during his abscence. However, Santa Barbara will need to figure it out quick as it will be back on the road for two games following this home match.
UCSB takes on St. Mary's at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 3rd at the Rec Cen Courts. Fans in attendance with their yellow shirts can also received free pizza courtesy of the 'Chos! Shirts are sold at matches for 10 dollars a piece.