Home Sweet Home: Gauchos Roll Past Gaels 6-1

Freshman Ajai Shekhera won his first NCAA match today with a straight-set win on court six.
Freshman Ajai Shekhera won his first NCAA match today with a straight-set win on court six.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Home sweet home. At least, that's all the UC Santa Barbara men's tennis team can be thinking to themselves following yet another victory in sunny Santa Barbara pushing its home record to an unblemished 5-0 mark.

"I like this win, I saw a lot of good things and I am just happy to get another win here in Santa Barbara in front of our great fans," Head Coach Marty Davis said.

Despite being without senior captain Simon Freund due to a groin issue, the Gauchos (6-4) were able to take care of the Gaels rather easily earning the 6-1 victory. St. Mary's (2-6) will travel to San Luis Obispo tomorrow to take on Cal Poly in hopes of resolving its current road issues as it is 0-4 away from St. Mary's.

The biggest question mark for UCSB coming into today would be whether or not it could overcome the loss of Freund especially when it came to the doubles point.

Usually the No. 3 duo, freshman Victor Krustev and sophomore transfer Joseph Guillin moved up a spot due to Freund's abscence and did not disappoint. The pair was up 5-3 but down 40-30 in the point before Krustev fired a shot back forcing a duece point. Krustev and Guillin then sealed the win taking the duece point.

"[Guillin] didn't really come in as a real comfortable doubles player, but his confidence is increasing every week," Davis said. "It's great to see that Guillin and [Krustev] are getting better every week."

Needing just one more win to take the doubles point, redshirt freshman Joseph Rotheram, Freund's usual teammate, and junior transfer Hironori Koyangi gave their team a 1-0 lead following a 6-4 victory on court three. Juniors Ander Holm and Nicolas Moreno de Alboran were up 5-4 serving when their match was called.

In singles, five of the six matches were finished in straight sets with many being big wins by UCSB players.

Over on court five, Krustev continued his solid play since returning from injury just a week ago. The Canada native won 6-2, 6-0 to win his second consectutive singles match. 

Just moments later, Holm extended his teams lead with a 6-2, 6-2 straight-set victory over St. Mary's Compana on court No. 3. 

Almost exactly like last week, UCSB took a very early 3-0 victory, but unlike last week the Gauchos held on to this one to notch another victory under their belt.

Guillin sealed the Gaels fate following a 6-4, 6-1 win over on court No. 2. It was the sophomore's first appearance at the No. 2 position for UCSB and he did not disappont winning his eighth straight singles match to improve to a team best 9-1.

"I felt really good being trusted to play the No. 2 court in place of Simon and I thought I played well," Guillin said. "It's been great to have coaches confidence and I just try to keep getting better each match. I just try to take each match one at a time and I want to win as much as possible to help my teammates."

With the match being sealed, freshman Ajai Shekhera still had a lot to play for. With this being his first career appearance for the 'Chos, the Westmont High School wanted to earn a win in his collegiate debut. The freshman did not disappoint pulling out a 6-3, 6-2 victory for his first NCAA D-I win.

"The win today felt great. I was very nervous but my teammates kept cheering me on and I lost the nerves as I kept playing and I loosened up and got the win," Shekhera said.

Rotheram would be the Gauchos only athlete to suffer a losing fate on Saturday as SMC's Bot proved to be too much defeating the Manhattan Beach native in three sets by scores of 6-2, 2-6, 1-6.

Last but certainly not least, Moreno de Alboran was having a tough match against the Gaels' Damon Kesaris. The junior was hoping to avenge a tough week in which he went 0-2 in singles aainst Utah and New Mexico just a week prior.

Down 0-3 in the first set, things were not looking too good for Moreno de Alboran. But if there is one thing the No. 114 player in the country is, he is resilient. The New York native eventually batteled back to force a tiebreaker at 6-6. Down early again in the tiebreaker, Moreno de Alboran kept pushing and won the tiebreak 7-5.

"Kesaris is a very good returner, a very good player so I knew I had to step up," Moreno de Alboran said. "[Coach Davis] told me to keep going after him and I did and it worked out. The best part is that I kept playing hard and it worked out."

In the second set, Moreno de Alboran seemed to really figure out his opponent as he was able to take the win much easier 6-4 and giving his team the 6-1 win.

"It feels so good to get a win, last week [Utah, New Mexico] beat us and all we could do is try to move on and we did a great job of that," Moreno de Alboran said.

Being at home has certainly been a blessing this year for Santa Barbara. But now, the real task will be taking this momentum and using it to pull out a win on the road where UCSB is currently 0-3.

"I feel like even though we lost the last two games we know we can play well, we know we are a good team and so our confidence is high. Now we just need to build off that and take this energy to Arizona," Moreno de Alboran said.

UCSB takes on Arizona at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, March 6 in Tuscon, Arizona. Follow @UCSBtennis on twitter to keep up to date with the team.


UC Santa Barbara 6, St. Mary's 1

March 3, 2018; Rec Cen Courts

1. Nicolas Moreno/Anders Holm (UCSB) vs Damon Kesaris/Nash Vollenweider, 5-4 (DNF)
2. Joseph Guillin/Victor Krustev (UCSB) d. Daniel Krutik/Chambers Easterling, 6-3
3. Joseph Rotheram/Hiornori Koyanagi (UCSB) d. Matthew Campana/Matis Bot, 6-4

1. Nicolas Moreno de Alboran (UCSB) d. Damon Kesaris (SMC) 7-6, 6-4
2. Joseph Guillin d. Nash Vollenweider (SMC) 6-4, 6-1
3. Anders Holm (UCSB) d. Matthew Campana (SMC) 6-2, 6-2
4. Victor Krustev (UCSB) d. Chambers Easterling (SMC) 6-0, 6-2
5. Matis Bot (SMC) d. Joseph Rotheram (UCSB) 2-6, 6-2, 10-8
6. Ajai Shekhera (UCSB) d. Daniel Krutik (SMC) 6-3, 6-3