UCSB Blanks UC Irvine in Big West Semifinal To Advance To Championship Sunday

Photo courtesy of Josh Barber
Photo courtesy of Josh Barber

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. - After yet another convincing win, this time sweeping UC Irvine 4-0, the UC Santa Barbara men's tennis team finds themselves with a wonderful opportunity come Sunday as UCSB will be taking on Cal Poly for a chance at its fourth-straight conference title. 

UCSB (17-6 overall, 6-0 Big West) has now won nine straight matches and has yet to give up a single point against any single Big West opponent. For UCI (16-12 overall, 2-4 Big West) its season has now come to an end, however, this was the fourth straight year it reached the semifinals.

To begin, the Gauchos appeared to have their consecutive-point streak snapped as the Anteaters gave a great effort in trying to take the doubles point. UCSB picked up a win on court three with freshman Joseph Guillin and Victor Krustev taking the 6-2 decision.

Over on court one, however, things were intense as juniors Nicolas Moreno de Alboran and Anders Holm were unable to fully pull away from UCI's Vatsal Bajpai and Bruce Man-Son Hing. In spite of this, the juniors did eventually clinch the point with a 6-3 win. Had either of the first two matches gone the other way for UC Irvine things could have been interesting as court two was stopped at 4-4.

In singles, many Anteaters also put up a tough challenge, but at the end of the day this Gaucho team was just too talented all across the lineup and picked up the three wins it needed to advance.

The first player to earn a win today was Holm over on court four. Coming into this match, the Denmark native was actually struggling a bit having been 6-4 in his last 10 matches and he only had a 5-8 mark at the No. 4 court in general. Putting all that aside, Holm put together a wonderful performance when his team needed him most earning a 6-4, 6-1 victory.

On the last court, Krustev was able to pick up the first postseason victory of his career with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Bajpai. That was the freshman's fourth consecutive victory as he improves to 14-6 overall this season. 

Up 3-0 the Gauchos needed one more win to secure the win and who better than senior captain Simon Freund to deliver that game-clinching triumph. Freund was actually struggling early in his match against Sasha Krasnov as he found himself down 3-0 in the first set. The Sweden native battled back, however, and won 6-3, 6-3 in both sets to win his ninth-straight match.

With the match being sealed in favor of UCSB the match was called leaving matches on courts one, two, and five undecided. Moreno de Alboran was actually one game away from being the Gaucho to clinch the match up 5-4 in the second set.

Now having the opportunity to win its fourth-straight conference title, UCSB is certainly proving its dominance over this conference. However, this entire run is fruitless without earning that win on Sunday, because without it the Gauchos will not advance to the NCAA Championships. 

Combine that with the fact that Santa Barbara is taking on Cal Poly, its bitter-green rival, who it just blanked 7-0 a little more than a week ago come Sunday, and one could only surmise that Sunday will be a great day for Tennis. 

Top-seeded UCSB will take on No. 2 Cal Poly for the Big West Championship at 9 a.m. on Sunday, April 28 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, host of the Big West Tournament the past 15 years. Follow @UCSBTennis for live stats of Sunday's finale.

Indian Wells Tennis Garden; Friday, April 27

1. Moreno de Alboran/Holm (UCSB) def. Bruce Man-Son-Hing/Bajpai (UCI) - 6-3
2. Freund/Joseph Rotheram (UCSB) vs. Marquard/Hansen (UCI) - 4-4 (unfinished)
3. Guillin/Krustev (UCSB) def. Gealer/Lopez (UCI) - 6-2

Order of finish: 3, 1

1. Nicolas Moreno de Alboran (UCSB) vs. Luis Lopez (UCI) - 6-3, 5-4 (unfinished)
2. Joseph Guillin (UCSB) vs. Luca Marquard (UCI) - 6-7 (7) (unfinished)
3. Simon Freund (UCSB) def. Sasha Krasnov (UCI) - 6-3, 6-3
4. Anders Holm (UCSB) def. Daniel Gealer (UCI) - 6-4, 6-1
5. Hironagi Koyanagi (UCSB) vs. Mason Hansen (UCI) - 6-4, 4-5 (unfinished)
6. Victor Krustev (UCSB) def. Vatsal Bajpai (UCI) - 6-2, 6-1

Order of finish: 4, 6, 3