DES MOINES, Iowa - For the first time since the 2016 season, the UC Santa Barbara men's tennis team finds itself in a very unfamiliar situation. Following a 4-2 loss against Utah State today, the Gauchos are now sitting at 3-4 to start the year, the first time they have fallen below .500 since starting the 2016 campaign 1-3.
Today's loss marks UCSB's third consecutive and sent them home from Iowa without a single win this weekend. Moreover, UCSB has lost four of its last five outings since starting the new season 2-0. As for the Aggies, they continue a little hot streak they have going for them winning five of their last six matches to sit at 9-4 thus far.
Doubles play continues to be a hindrance for UCSB primarily at the No. 3 court.
In the last three matches, UCSB has thrown out three different combinations out on the last court, yet it was unable to win in any match. Today's duo comprised of junior Joseph Guillin and freshman Wilhelm Saiga sure fought as if their lives depended on it though.
First, Santa Barbara gained good momentum with a 6-2 win on court two courtesy of Victor Krustev and Joseph Rotheram. The sophomore pair are really hitting their stride as of late winning their last three.
Unfortunately, the Gauchos top pair of Nicolas Moreno de Alboran and Anders Holm lost on court one 6-4 to USU's Isaac Arturo Arevalo and Jose Carvajal putting the pressure on the final court. Guillin and Saiga fought hard with the game tied at 6-6, the Aggie duo bested the Gaucho duo 7-6 giving Utah State the 1-0 lead.
In singles, Krustev and Rotheram would continue their hot play from doubles with both being the sole winners in today's match for the Gauchos. No. 87 Krustev gave UCSB some much-needed momentum with a win on the No. 3 court 6-3, 6-1 to push his overall record to 5-1 this year.
As for Rotheram, the Manhattan Beach, Calif. native has now won two matches in a row following a very convincing three-set win over Rithvik Bollipalli who was 8-4 and 3-0 on the No. 5 court coming into the day.
Unfortunately, that would be the only good news for the Gauchos all day in singles. On court four, Holm was unable to break his losing skid dropping his match in straight sets 7-5, 6-4 making his record 2-4 on the year.
Every other match on court was pushed to three sets, but outside of Rotheram's win, the Gauchos could not come up with a win to break Utah State's momentum.
Despite taking the first set over on court six, senior Hironori Koyanagi was unable to pick up another win dropping his match 6-4, 3-6, 4-6. The same story went for No. 25 ranked Guillin who has now lost back to back matches for the first time in his Gaucho career, losing on court one 6-1, 2-6, 3-6. Overall, Guillin is still in the positive column sitting at 4-3.
Guillin's loss was the final one as it gave Utah State its fourth point and the win. On court two, Moreno de Alboran, despite dropping his first set, bounced back hard with a 7-6 win in the second and held a 4-3 advantage in the third when the match was called.
Overall, the past three matches have been tough for the Gauchos. Coincidentally enough, just like falling below .500, UCSB has not lost three straight since the 2016 campaign. However, that team would go on to win 16 of its final 20 matches to eventually finish the year 17-7.
Point is, Santa Barbara is as resilient as they come. Even last year, UCSB was one point 6-5 but proceeded to win 12 of its next 13 matches to finish 18-6 and earn a bid to the NCAA Championships.
UCSB may be struggling right now, but once it can figure out where everyone fits this team will still be scary good. Potential is everywhere on this team, however, it does need to come out sooner rather than later.
Santa Barbara's next match is against Grand Canyon University at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24 at the Rec Cen Courts.
Utah State 4, UC Santa Barbara 2
1. Isaac Arturo Arevalo/Jose Carvajal (USU) def. N. Moreno de Alboran/Anders Holm (UCSB) 6-4
2. Victor Krustev/Joseph Rotheram (UCSB) def. Sergiu Bucur/Rithvik Bollipalli (USU) 6-2
3. Duro Opacic/Felipe Acosta (USU) def. Joseph Guillin/Wilhelm Saiga (UCSB) 7-6
1. Isaac Arturo Arevalo (USU) def. #25 Joseph Guillin (UCSB) 1-6, 6-2, 6-3
2. Sergiu Bucur (USU) vs. #9 Nicolas Moreno de Alboran (UCSB) 6-2, 6-7, 3-4, unfinished
3. #87 Victor Krustev (UCSB) def. Felipe Acosta (USU) 6-3, 6-1
4. Jose Carvajal (USU) def. Anders Holm (UCSB) 7-5, 6-4
5. Joseph Rotheram (UCSB) def. Rithvik Bollipalli (USU) 6-7, 6-3, 6-3
6. Duro Opacic (USU) def. Hironori Koyanagi (UCSB) 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
UC Santa Barbara 3-4
Utah State 9-4