Men’s tennis downed by Aztecs, 5-2

    The UCSD men’s tennis team, currently ranked 12th in Division II, traveled across town on Feb. 24 to face Division I San Diego State with nothing to lose and everything to gain. Although the Aztecs edged the Tritons, 5-2, UCSD earned the respect of SDSU with two big wins in doubles and solid play by junior Bryan Swatt in singles.

    Lori Drahota
    Guardian file

    “Our team played solidly today,” UCSD head coach Eric Steidlmayer said. “I think that some players played well, some very well, and others a bit below average. On the whole, it was a good performance.”

    At No. 2 doubles, senior Amir Nejad and Swatt paired up to beat Markus Dickhardt and Michael Coehlo by a break with a score of 8-5.

    “We were consistent and just didn’t miss too much,” Nejad said. “We made a lot of our first serves.”

    The deciding winner of the doubles point came down to No. 1 doubles with Triton seniors Jeff Wilson and Sameer Chopra up against the ninth-ranked pair in Division I, Felix Hardt and Ryan Redondo.

    “Sameer and I had a nothing-to-lose mentality going into the match,” Wilson said. “We just wanted to play our best, hit the crap out of the ball and go for shots.”

    Their match began with Chopra and Wilson bombing serves in the first couple of service games and playing a solid return game early on. Play went back and forth throughout the match and was finally decided by a tiebreaker at 8-8. Chopra and Wilson got off to an early 6-3 lead, but Hardt and Redondo fought their way back to tie it at 6-6. Chopra and Wilson, ranked third in Division II, pulled it off in the end, however, taking the match and the doubles point for UCSD, 9-8 (8-6).

    “I was really nervous, but I also had a lot of adrenaline,” Wilson said. “And at 7-6, I probably hit the best backhand of my life on his volley to win it all. [Winning that match] made me feel like we can beat anyone. It was a take-it-or-choke-it chance.”

    The Tritons did take the doubles point of the match, putting them at an early advantage over the Aztecs.

    “The doubles point was fun to get,” Steidlmayer said. “SDSU’s No. 1 team was ranked ninth in Division I in the country, and Jeff and Sameer certainly played well to get that. At No. 2 we played aggressively, moved better than our opponents, and gave ourselves a good chance for victory.”

    Hardt and Redondo’s loss resulted in a drop in their rankings from No. 9 to No. 30 in Division I.

    No. 3 doubles, sophomore Brent Molden and senior Nick Morton, were defeated by San Diego State’s Daniel Jung and Dontia Hayes.

    UCSD started off solidly in singles with Nejad and Swatt taking the first set at No. 6 and No. 2 singles, respectively, and Molden serving for the first-set at No. 5. However, Molden’s opponent, Michael Coehlo, fought to win the first set tiebreaker and never looked back. And at No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4 singles, Chopra, sophomore Emil Novak and Wilson struggled and lost their first sets to the Aztecs.

    “I just had no rhythm in my singles match,” Wilson said. “Daniel Jung is a good player but has the weirdest game; he’s what you call a ‘junk baller,’ and he was just hard to attack.”

    The lone singles victory for UCSD came from Swatt, who is ranked No. 17 in Division II. He played one of the best matches of his career against Redondo, whom Swatt remembers as the best player in southern California from when they were younger. He took Redondo by surprise, winning the first set quickly, 6-3. Swatt ended up dropping the second set, 4-6, but battled back to win the third, playing solidly, fighting for every point and frustrating his opponent.

    “I stayed focus and played my game the whole match,” Swatt said. “My nerves got the best of me in the second set, but I fought through it.”

    Steidlmayer was pleased with Swatt’s performance, citing that his hard work in practice paid off.

    “Bryan has been working at his game for seven weeks, without a lot of positive results, but with persistence and determination,” he said. “I was happy for him that he was able to get two great results today. That was awesome!”

    San Diego State got the better of UCSD in singles — winning five of six matches — but the Tritons made them earn the wins, forcing four of the matches to three sets. Molden and Chopra were also struggling through their matches with nagging injuries.

    “Definitely, singles was tough,” Steidlmayer said. “But we played to three sets in three losses and one win, so definitely we feel we were in the match. The injuries suffered are a part of the game and we probably just need to learn how to deal with those better.”

    Although the Tritons lost, their competitive play against their Division I opponent was a confidence booster that they hope will aid them in their tougher Division II matches coming up in the schedule, namely Florida Gulf Coast and top ranked Hawaii Pacific.

    UCSD plays its next matches on March 6 against Sonoma State at 9 a.m. and University of Nevada at 2 p.m. in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

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