MALIBU, Calif. - UC Santa Barbara's senior ace Nicolas Moreno de Alboran was in action Sunday at the ITA Oracle Masters playing for a chance to win the whole tournament. Standing in his way was USC's Laurens Verboven. A win would mean many things for UCSB and Moreno de Alboran himself. Unfortunately, Moreno de Alboran was unable to pull out a tough three-set match, losing by set scores of 7-6 (4), 6-7 (4), 3-6.
"Nic played well but Laurens stepped up and took the important points, obviously it would have been nice to win but it was still a good start for Nic and I am excited to see how this momentum carries," Head Coach Marty Davis said.
A win would have clinched a spot for the New York native in the National Fall Championships and also would have shown the immense talent a mid-major like UCSB has built up over the last few years. Regardless, the match still highlighted that Moreno de Alboran is quickly improving and is making a case to be one of the top players in college tennis.
In the first set, things could not have started worse for Moreno de Alboran. He found himself down 3-0 to start the set and rallied a bit but was still down 4-2. Moreno de Alboran then turned on the jets winning the next three games to take a 5-4 lead.
Verboven battled back and forced a tiebreaker in the first set. Tied at 2-2, Moreno de Alboran took five of the final seven points to take the first set and take some good momentum. In that first set, Moreno de Alboran converted a great 77 percent of his first serves, something he excelled at all weekend.
In the second set, Moreno de Alboran was the first to break serve taking a 2-1 lead but Verboven would battle back to take a 5-4 lead. Eventually, the two would play such a close game they would go into another tiebreaker.
Up 4-2 in the second-set tiebreaker, Moreno de Alboran had a chance to really put his foot on the gas. However, a fortunate bounce helped Verboven take the point to cut the lead to one and then took the final four to win the second set 7-6 (4).
"Towards the end, Laurens really started to dictate play and Nic had a lot of chances especially in the second but he could not convert. Nic didn't do anything wrong he just got outplayed by the smallest of margins," Davis said.
In the final set, Verboven had the momentum and rode it all the way out. He broke Moreno de Alboran at 1-1 and then never looked back taking the set and the match 6-3. The match will be re-broadcast on ESPNU, airing at 2 p.m. PDT, on Monday, September 24th and Tuesday, September 25th.
Despite the loss, Moreno de Alboran played one hell of a match and showcased that he certainly has improved his game vastly since last year. On top of that, Moreno de Alboran will still have chances to secure a spot in the ITA National Fall Championships later in the season. For now, he will turn his attention to the All-American Championships.
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