Tritons take top spot at California Invitational

Playing away from home can be seen as a disadvantage due to unfamiliar territory and fewer fans rooting for the visiting team. Not so for the UCSD men’s tennis team, which has beaten the odds and won five of its last six matches on the road.

Guardian file photo

The Tritons, ranked No. 23 in Division II, stretched their winning streak to five with decisive victories against Vanguard, Sonoma State University and Cal Poly Pomona to take the California Invitational tournament title for the first time.

“”I’m happy with the results and with everyone giving a good effort,”” said UCSD head coach Eric Steidlmayer.

On Feb. 14, the Tritons squared off first against Vanguard University, sweeping it 9-0. The doubles team of junior Sameer Chopra and sophomore Bryan Swatt won their match 8-2, followed by junior Jeff Wilson and sophomore Nick Morton, who won 8-3. Rounding out the doubles sweep were junior Sean Nagel and senior Mike Meyer with an 8-0 victory.

In singles, the Tritons crushed Vanguard in all six matches, with wins by Chopra (6-1, 6-2), Meyer (6-3, 2-6, 6-3), Swatt (6-1, 6-4), Wilson (6-1, 6-4), sophomore Emil Novak (6-0, 6-1) and junior Blake Wilson-Hayden (6-0, 6-0).

“”Although [Vanguard] was the weaker team, we still had to stay focused because we knew they wanted to beat us,”” Swatt said.

On Feb. 15, UCSD faced off against Sonoma State and destroyed the Seawolves 8-1. The doubles pairs of Chopra and Swatt, Meyer and Nagel, and Wilson and Tomas Novak edged out their opponents with scores of 8-5, 8-6 and 8-2, respectively.

“”Tommy Novak played well in his doubles match,”” Steidlmayer said of the freshman. “”He really showed a lot of energy.””

UCSD took five of six in singles, with the only loss by Chopra, who fought hard but lost 6-2, 3-6 and 6-4. The Tritons recorded victories from Meyer (6-0, 6-4), Swatt (6-2, 6-0), Wilson (6-1, 6-4), Emil Novak (7-6, 6-2) and Wilson-Hayden (6-0, 6-1).

After their two victories, the Tritons matched off against No. 26 Cal Poly Pomona in the championship on Feb. 16, easily crushing them 8-1 in yet another lopsided victory. UCSD dominated once again, sweeping doubles when Chopra and Swatt, Wilson and Nick Morton, and Nagel and Meyer defeated Pomona, tallying up three points with scores of 8-6, 8-6 and 8-3.

The Tritons dropped only one point in singles when Meyer was edged out 6-2, 7-5. The rest of the Tritons knocked off their opponents and secured their championship title with victories from Chopra (6-3, 6-0), Swatt (2-6, 6-1, 10-4), Wilson (3-6, 7-5, 10-8), Novak (6-0, 6-2) and Wilson-Hayden (6-1, 6-1).

“”We were a hungry team, and [Cal Poly Pomona and us] were fired up to play each other,”” said Swatt, who won all his singles and doubles matches (with Chopra) in the tournament. “”We came out with a lot of energy, and we felt like we were the better team … It was nice to get wins in our region because it has the toughest teams.””

Although the Tritons are on a hot streak, they still need to improve on their “”mental toughness and physical execution of their game plans,”” according to Steidlmayer. With this, the Tritons will host Western New Mexico and Alliant International on Feb. 21; play begins at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Northview Tennis Courts.