UCSD makes NCAA Championships

    UCSD men’s tennis head coach Eric Steidlmayer told his team to simply have fun, execute their shots and play with confidence before their regional playoff match against Hawaii-Hilo.

    The No. 13 Tritons did just that and defeated Hawaii-Hilo, 5-0, at the Northview Tennis Courts on May 4. The victory advanced them to the NCAA National Championships for the first time since UCSD’s jump to Division II in 2000.

    UCSD (18-9 overall) was originally scheduled to participate in its playoff match in Hawaii but the withdrawal of top-seed Hawaii Pacific from the tournament due to two ineligible players forced a reseeding of the tournament. The withdrawal meant the Tritons playing Hawaii-Hilo (13-12 overall) at home instead of BYU-Hawaii.

    “I thought we had a good chance to win because we beat [Hawaii-Hilo] twice before,” Steidlmayer said. “But I also knew [Hawaii-Hilo] could play well because it was [a close match] last time.”

    The Tritons, who had a five-match winning streak to end the season, continued their solid play with an aggressive start at doubles. Seniors Sameer Chopra and Jeff Wilson began the doubles sweep with their 8-5 victory over Richard Korneck and Jarrod Dryer at No. 1 doubles. Chopra and Wilson broke serve early in the match and it was all they needed to seal the victory.

    Senior Nick Morton and sophomore Brent Molden teamed up to play No. 3 doubles and easily defeated Ned Hayley and Fuyuki Samejima, 8-3, in the far court.

    As Morton and Molden finished, senior Amir Nejad and junior Bryan Swatt were up 6-5 in a tight match against Karl and Staffan Moritz for No. 2 doubles.

    “We started off a little slow,” Swatt said. “We were not making as many shots as we usually do and that’s our strength. But we became more aggressive at the end.”

    Their aggressive play and clutch shots paid off, and Swatt and Nejad broke serve to win the match, 8-5.

    UCSD rolled into singles with a 3-0 cushion and only needed two singles victories to eliminate the Vulcans.

    “I told [the team] to play long points [in singles] and to not try to win right away — just play good tennis,” Steidlmayer said.

    The Tritons increased their intensity in singles and did not falter against the Vulcans. Continuing their confident play and solid execution of shots, UCSD took the first set in all six singles matches and that all but nailed the coffin for Hawaii-Hilo.

    Chopra, who had been sidelined with an injury, finished his match first with a convincing 6-2, 6-0 win against Korneck at No. 1 singles. Chopra’s aggressive play and solid service kept Korneck from gaining any momentum.

    “I was nervous in singles because I hadn’t played a match in a while,” Chopra said. “Ever since I got back from my injury, I was not very confident, but after the first couple of games, I started hitting the ball well. I just steamrolled him after that.”

    Chopra’s win put UCSD at 4-0. At this point, three Tritons had the opportunity to clinch the dual match. Swatt was up 5-4 in the second set, and in the court next to him was junior Emil Novak, up 5-3 in the second. Wilson was also up 5-0 in his match.

    Swatt ended up clinching the victory for UCSD when he held the serve to win his singles match, 6-2, 6-4. Because UCSD already won the match, Wilson, Novak, Molden and Morton did not conclude their singles matches and UCSD took the 5-0 victory.

    “It was exciting to win the clincher,” Swatt said. “I was joking around with Emil [Novak] about who was going to finish first.”

    The Tritons are set to play in the NCAA’s Round of 16 of the National Championships Festival in Orlando, Fla., held from May 11 through May 16. UCSD will play West Florida, ranked second in the nation. The specific date and time of the match is yet to be determined.

    Since entering Division II, the Tritons have only played West Florida once, and lost, 7-2, in the 2003 season. However, UCSD is confident about its chances against the Argonauts.

    “The key is going to be doubles. If we can get [at least] 2 out of 3, we’re going to have a good chance at winning. I feel like it’s a winnable match,” Steidlmayer said. “I think the guys are confident that they can win. West Florida is not too good for us, they’re just a good team.”

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