Men’s tennis aces four straight opponents

    How a team reacts after a tough loss is often a measure of its strength. After suffering a disappointing loss to Loyola Marymount on March 3, the UCSD men’s tennis team proved its strength and self-discipline by winning four straight matches, including three road matches in a day and a half.

    David Ung
    Guardian

    “I was pleased that we kept our consistent training after [March 3],” UCSD head coach Eric Steidlmayer said. “Most important, we knew we needed to be tougher and we responded.”

    The team’s last two matches were key victories against California Collegiate Athletic Association rival Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and No. 13 Florida Gulf Coast on March 7 and March 9, respectively.

    The Tritons notched a victory on the morning of March 6 against Sonoma State, 9-0, and also defeated University of Nevada-Reno later that afternoon in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

    In the match against Sonoma State, the Tritons played solidly, taking all three doubles matches and all six singles matches.

    “A couple of players stepped in and played really well for us,” Steidlmayer said. “[Freshman] Seth Spector and [senior] Sean Higginbotham filled the five and six spots [in singles] and really went after it, defeating both their opponents in straight sets.”

    Shortly after its victory, UCSD took the courts to face Division I Nevada-Reno. No. 2 and No. 3 doubles were up one break, but the Wolf Pack fought back to win both matches to take the doubles point for the day.

    The loss in doubles did not deter the Tritons, as they took five of the six singles matches. Down a set, sophomore Brent Molden had his back against the wall but battled it out with his opponent, forcing a tiebreaker in the second set. Molden went on to win the tiebreaker and third set. Molden’s win contributed to the Tritons’ 5-2 victory over the Wolf Pack.

    The last match of the road trip was against another Division I team, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The Tritons continued to struggle in doubles, losing two of three matches, giving the Mustangs the doubles point for the day. At No. 2, senior Amir Nejad and junior Bryan Swatt fell to John Nguyen and Brett Van Linge, 8-5, while senior Nick Morton and Molden lost to Davey Jones and Stacy Meronoff, 8-2. Seniors Sameer Chopra and Jeff Wilson teamed up to defeat Matt Baca and Nick Tracy, 9-7, at No. 1 doubles.

    “Our movement in doubles is something that we are going to have to work on, and something that we will improve at,” Steidlmayer said. “But right now we are just not looking to be aggressive enough.”

    Knowing it had a tough battle ahead in singles, UCSD attacked early on, taking the first set in five of the six matches. At No. 2 singles, Swatt quickly ended the day for his counterpart, Van Linge, in straight sets, 6-0, 6-1. The Mustangs countered by taking No. 6, as Meronoff got the best of Nejad, 6-3, 6-3. Shortly after, Chopra took the win in No. 1 singles. After losing the first set to John Nguyen, 6-1, Chopra found his rhythm and secured the win with identical scores of 6-3 in the second and third set.

    With UCSD and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo tied 2-2 in the match, it came down to No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 singles, which were all in the third set. At No. 3, Wilson lost to Baca, whom he defeated in doubles earlier, 6-7, 6-4, 6-1. But junior Emil Novak and Molden iced the match for the Tritons by winning their respective third sets. Tied at a set apiece, Molden and Tracy battled it out in the third with Molden taking the win, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4. The deciding match came down to Novak, who, according to Steidlmayer, “fought a very loud and abrasive crowd as well as a tough opponent [Jones] to seal the dual match.” The final score for Novak’s match was 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

    UCSD returned home to face Florida Gulf Coast, ranked 13th in Division II, on March 9.

    After struggling in doubles in their previous two matches, the Tritons stepped up and notched big wins in doubles, taking an early 3-0 lead over the Eagles in front of a boisterous crowd. Chopra and Wilson easily slid past their No. 1 doubles opponents Wolfgang Pinther and Jose Pastrello, 8-1. Shortly after, Molden and Morton took care of Richard Stempnowoski and Franco Mata, 8-5. The last doubles match was at No. 2 with Nejad and Swatt, who staged a dramatic comeback against Seth Fogelman and Nestor Nunez. Nejad and Swatt were facing defeat at 7-4, but scraped their way back into the match, holding serve and breaking back. The duo forced a tiebreaker and at 6-6, Swatt hit a forehand pass for a winner. At match point on serve, he fired an ace to seal the victory at 9-8 (8-6). The crowd went wild and Swatt and Nejad bumped chests to celebrate their victory. Their big win was a momentum setter, as the Tritons went into singles with energy and confidence.

    UCSD continued its strong play, winning four of six singles matches and icing the dual match at 7-2 over Florida Gulf Coast. Feeding off of the doubles win, Nejad and Swatt finished their singles matches, quickly defeating their opponents in straight sets. Novak followed with a win in straight sets while Chopra mounted his own comeback after dropping the first set and being down in the second.

    “The match of the day was Sameer Chopra’s,” Steidlmayer said. “[He] dropped the first set, and then got down a break, 2-1, in the second before turning on the afterburners, winning 10 straight games and the match in three sets. Our players were making references to Agassi the way Sameer was dominating points with his forehand. I was shaking my head and very happy he was on our side.”

    The Tritons are looking to continue playing solid tennis because their schedule only gets tougher. On March 11 they face Rollins College, a team that has twice earned victories against top-10 Division II schools, and Hawaii Pacific, the top-ranked school in the nation, on March 12. Both matches are at Northview Tennis Courts, and first serve is at 2 p.m. on March 11 and 3 p.m. on March 12. Steidlmayer feels good about his team’s chances.

    “We definitely feel confident going into the matches,” he said. “Today’s team was No. 13 in the country, so I don’t think we are going to be scared at all. I am hopeful that we improve mentally throughout all those tough matches. If we do, we are definitely going to win our fair share. It should be fun.”

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