May 10, 2007

Gauchos Head to LA to Face No. 12 USC in NCAA First Round

May 10, 2007

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The Schedule
Saturday, May 12 - 4 p.m.
UCSB (6-18) at No. 12 USC (20-2)
NCAA Championships - First Round
Marks Stadium - Los Angeles, Calif.

L.A. Confidential
The UC Santa Barbara men's tennis team heads to the University of Southern California this Friday, May 11 for a showdown with USC in the NCAA Tournament. The Gauchos' bout with the 12th-ranked Trojans is scheduled for 4:00 p.m., following the first regional matchup between Pepperdine and Penn State, which starts at 1:00 p.m. The winner of the Santa Barbara-Southern Cal match will advance to face either the Waves or the Nittany Lions in the second round Saturday, May 12 at 3:00 p.m. All three contests will be at USC's Mark's Stadium.

Back-to-Back
UCSB returns to the NCAA Tournament in 2007 on the heels of its second consecutive Big West Tournament Championship. The third-seeded Gauchos defeated No. 2 UC Irvine by way of a 4-3 thriller in the semifinals April 28 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden and then dispatched top-seed and Central Coast rival Cal Poly 4-2 in the championship the following day. With the victory, UCSB claimed its fourth Big West title in the last six years and fifth overall. In 2006, Santa Barbara defeated the Mustangs 4-2 in the semifinals before posting a narrow 4-3 victory over Pacific in the final to claim its first Big West title since 2003.

Tournament Time!
2007 will be UCSB's seventh appearance in the NCAA Tournament and first back-to-back trip to the Big Dance since 2002 and 2003. Last season, the Gauchos were pitted against an excellent Cal squad and lost a 4-0 decision at Berkeley in the Round of 64. The defeat marked Santa Barbara's third consecutive first round exit, all by 4-0 scores. UCSB also lost 4-0 to USC in 2003 and to UCLA in 2002. UCSB's best showing in the NCAA Tourney was in 1997, when the Gauchos advanced to the Sweet 16. Jong-Min Lee and Ross Duncan led Santa Barbara to a 4-1 win over the University of Washington in the first round and a 4-1 victory over Pepperdine in the second round before falling 4-0 to Mississippi in the Round of 32. Needless to say, the Gauchos, who are 4-6 all-time in NCAA Championship play, will be looking to avoid another first round defeat this Friday against the 12th-ranked Trojans.

One of the Most Dangerous 6-18 Squads You Will Ever See
While UCSB does enter the NCAA Tournament with an overall record of just 6-18, that does not begin to tell the story of the Gauchos' season. The defending Big West Champions entered the season with a national ranking of 70, but were plagued with injuries all year. Freshman Philip Therp, who began the year at No. 3 singles, went down with a broken left wrist February 9 against Boise State and missed UCSB's next 11 matches. Junior Jack Hui was penciled in at No. 2 singles for the Gauchos before suffering strained ligaments in his right wrist. He missed time on and off the final two thirds of the season. Santa Barbara's only senior and No. 5 singles player Elad Stern has missed all but two matches with a torn rotator cuff suffered after UCSB's second match of the year. He will not be available Friday. Sophomore Grant Robertson, who would have played at No. 6, has been battling nagging injuries all season and had to fill the void left by Stern when he was healthy. Finally, sophomore Bijan Hejazi, who is generally just a singles player, has had to play 21 doubles contests in 2007 and his performance at No. 1 singles has definitely suffered because of it. While the Gauchos have lost an overwhelming amount of games due to injuries this season, they are healthy and have won three of the last four heading into Friday's match.

Fountain of Youth
As unfortunate as a season filled with injures can be, the other side of the coin for the Gauchos in 2007 has been the fact that the young squad has gained some valuable experience. With a roster that consisted of one senior, two juniors, five sophomores, and two freshmen at the start of the season, there was no doubt that head coach Marty Davis was going to need contributions from some of his underclassmen. When the injury bug struck, the younger Gauchos were called upon even more. Junior Anders Dalskov held things down as the one elder statesman that was healthy all year and recorded a record of 19-13 overall, playing anywhere from No. 1 through No. 5 singles. Sophomores Max Taylor and Nigel Barton both spent the year playing No. 3 through No. 6 singles and did an excellent job of plugging holes on the score sheet. Lastly, freshman Josh Finkelstein played as high as No. 3 singles in 2007, gaining experience that he will benefit from greatly in the future.

Davis Does It
Head coach Marty Davis is in his eighth season at the helm of the UCSB men's tennis program. He entered the season with a career record of 83-81 overall and now stands at 89-99 after a difficult year in which his injury-plagued Gauchos went just 6-18. In Davis' first two seasons as head coach, Santa Barbara posted a record of just 14-30, but the Gauchos have gone 75-69 since. Despite the rash of injuries, Davis guided UCSB to its second consecutive Big West title in 2007, and fourth in the last six years. He is also leading the Gauchos to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances and has sent the team dancing four of the last six seasons. After repeating as the conference's top coach in 2007, Davis has now been named the Big West Coach of the Year a total of four times, with each award following a Santa Barbara conference championship. An accomplished tennis professional, Davis came to UCSB following a stint as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Cal. An All-American with the Golden Bears, he was inducted into the school's Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame last year.

Several Gauchos Earn All-Conference Awards
After claiming back-to-back league championships, five Gauchos earned All-Big West Conference awards and two doubles teams were selected to all-conference squads when the annual awards were released Tuesday, May 1. Earning the spot on the first team for the second year in a row was sophomore Bijan Hejazi. Joining Hejazi was junior Anders Dalskov, who garnered first team honors for the first time. Junior Jack Hui and freshman Philip Therp took home All-Big West Second Team honors, while freshman Josh Finkelstein received honorable mention accolades. UCSB's top doubles duo of Grant Robertson and Dalskov were named to the all-conference first team and the tandem of Nigel Barton and Finkelstein garnered second team doubles honors. Perhaps the most impressive award went to Philip Therp, who was named the Big West Freshman of the Year, despite missing 12 games with a broken wrist. Normally a two-handed player, Therp returned to the lineup March 25 against Dartmouth and registered a 6-3, 7-6 victory at No. 3 singles, playing one handed for the first time. He went on to finish with a singles record of 6-5 and became the second straight Gaucho to take home top freshman honors. Finally, Marty Davis was named the Big West Co-Coach of the Year, earning the award for the second year in a row and fourth time in his career. Davis took home coach of the year accolades after guiding UCSB to a fourth conference title in his eight-year tenure.

Therp To Represent Big West in 2007 Individual Championships
Not only was Philip Therp named the Big West Conference Freshman of the Year, the native of Birkeroed, Denmark was also selected as one of 64 individual singles players that will compete in the 2007 NCAA Division I Men's Tennis Championships. After helping the Gauchos reach a second consecutive Big West Championship, Therp will now have a shot at the nations' top honor for an individual singles player in the NCAA Championships to be held May 23-28 at Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Georgia. The event follows the completion of the team championship, which runs from May 17-22. The selection of individuals is based on the prescribed criteria listed in the championships handbook and approved by the Division I Championships/Competition Cabinet. Automatic qualification into the Division I singles championships was awarded to conferences with one or more singles players ranked in the ITA Top 125. Therp will be the Big West Conference's lone representative in the 2007 individual championships.

--www.ucsbgauchos.com--

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