UCSD hosts NCAA men's tennis tournament

    Having home-court advantage will be a heavy component when the No. 14 UCSD men’s tennis team tries to avenge last year’s second-round loss to Hawaii Pacific.

    Tyler Huff
    Guardian file

    “”Playing at home is a big factor. We will need the loud, boisterous fans when we play Hawaii Pacific,”” said UCSD men’s tennis player Sean Nagel.

    The National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II Men’s Tennis Committee has selected the No. 2 seed Tritons to host the West Regionals against No. 3 seed Hawaii Pacific University on May 3 on the Northview Tennis Courts. The match starts at 10 a.m.

    There are 61 teams from eight regions in the first round and UCSD is one of the three teams receiving first-round byes along with Hawaii Pacific and defending NCAA National Champions BYU Hawaii. Each region is having two first and second round tournaments with the winners advancing to the 16-team national championships in Altamonte Springs, Fla., May 8 through May 11.

    The Tritons are entering postseason play on a winning note, ending their regular season with a pair of victories on the road against Sonoma State and UC Davis. They finished a solid season with a record of 18-5 in one of the tougher schedules in all of Division II, and took first in the California Collegiate Athletic Association.

    The Hawaii Pacific Sea Warriors concluded their season with a record of 15-3 and placed second in the Pacific West Conference behind BYU Hawaii. They have not played the Tritons since defeating them last year in the second round.

    UCSD has entered postseason play ever since they joined Division II in 2001 under head coach Eric Steidlmayer. UCSD has also competed well in Division II despite having to play teams where the majority of the players are on athletic scholarships — something UCSD does not give.

    The Tritons will be facing a squad of foreign players, including the No. 7 singles player in the nation, Mikael Maatta from Sweden, who will most likely play at No. 1 singles against junior Sameer Chopra, whom Maatta defeated in three sets last year.

    All are healthy on the UCSD team, and Steidlmayer will send out his usual starting lineup against the Sea Warriors. At No. 1 doubles will be Chopra pairing up with sophomore Bryan Swatt. At No. 2 will be freshman Tommy Novak and his partner, junior Jeff Wilson. At No. 3 will be a pair of seniors, captain Mike Meyer and Sean Nagel. In singles, Chopra will play at No. 1, Meyer at No. 2, Swatt at No. 3, sophomore Emil Novak at No. 4, junior Blake Wilson-Hayden at No. 5 and Wilson at No. 6.

    Meyer, who says he’s been playing better the last few weeks and feels like his normal self after having faced an injury last season, is looking forward to his singles match, most likely against Austrian Matey Pampulov. He has seen Pampulov play before and plans on beating him with his counterpunch and by outhitting him.

    The Tritons are looking to benefit from last year’s match against the Sea Warriors.

    “”My freshman year last year, I didn’t have the best end of the season. But now I am a year more ready and a year more experienced,”” Swatt said. “”We know [the Sea Warriors] going in … there will be no surprises. We have a lot of energy and we feel positive. We’ve been working hard all year for this match. We’re really pumped.””

    Before the match, the Tritons will have a couple of days of intense doubles practice and will be focusing more on match play.

    “”We cannot afford to come out slow [in doubles]. Doubles are fairly even [against Hawaii Pacific] and will be huge because we have to take [at least] a 2-1 lead,”” Meyer said.

    Playing at home is also a crucial advantage for the Tritons, who lost last year in Hawaii. Nagel says that not having the Hawaiian humidity and playing in San Diego weather are key aspects, which allow the ball to travel faster here.

    The Tritons are also hoping for a large, thunderous crowd to cheer them on and to perhaps intimidate their opponents.

    “”I think it is very important to have the home court, especially if we can draw a large amount of fans. They definitely could be the difference for us,”” Steidlmayer said.

    Swatt expressed a similar sentiment.

    “”We’re going to need the place packed,”” Swatt said. “”Fan support is big. We need it.””

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