UCSD eliminated at Nationals

    The UCSD men’s tennis team saw its season come to a close on May 12 with a 5-2 first-round loss against No. 2 West Florida in the NCAA Division II National Championships Round of 16 held in Altamonte Springs, Fla. After securing a 2-1 lead in doubles, the Tritons were unable to stave off a comeback from West Florida, who took four straight singles matches to advance in the tournament.

    The Tritons, continuing their solid doubles play, took two of three matches to gain an early 2-1 lead over the Argonauts. At No. 2 doubles, senior Amir Nejad and junior Bryan Swatt paired up to defeat Paulius Jurkenas and Mario Vergara, 8-5. At No. 3, senior Nick Morton and sophomore Brent Molden defeated Guillame de Verbize and Jonas Mouly, 8-6. But No. 1 doubles, seniors Jeff Wilson and Sameer Chopra, ranked second in doubles in Division II, dropped their match to Radovan Chrz and German Delmagro, 8-2.

    “We had a good start in doubles,” UCSD head coach Eric Steidlmayer said. “Our No. 2 and No. 3 doubles teams played well with lots of energy and emotion. We were excited [to take an early lead].”

    However, the Argonauts came right back in singles, quickly taking three matches in straight sets to steal the lead from the Tritons. Wilson lost, 6-0, 6-2, to Chrz at No. 3 singles and Morton lost, 6-2, 6-2, to Vergara at No. 6. West Florida took a 4-2 lead when Molden lost a very tight match to Malagro, 7-5, 7-5.

    Despite losing its lead, UCSD kept things tight, stretching the other matches to a third set. West Florida proved to be too much for the Tritons, however, as Jurkenas defeated a fatigued and cramping Chopra, 6-7, 7-6, 6-2, to clinch the victory for the Argonauts, 5-2.

    “Sameer Chopra was in the best shape of his life coming into this match,” Steidlmayer said. “It’s hard to know if he would’ve won, but he played his heart out.”

    At No. 2, Swatt and de Verbize each took a set; Swatt was down 5-4 in the third before his match was halted. At No. 4, Novak and Mouly also each won a set, and Novak was down 4-2 in the third before his match was halted.

    “We concentrated well,” Steidlmayer said. “West Florida just had more depth because they had players ranked in the top five. West Florida played well, a little better than us.”

    Despite its first-round loss, UCSD accomplished much throughout its season. Seniors Chopra and Wilson maintained a No. 2 ranking in doubles while Chopra, Swatt and Novak were ranked in the top 50 for singles. Each attained their highest rankings with Chopra at No. 13, Swatt at No. 17 and Novak at No. 39.

    The Tritons reached Nationals for the first time in Division II. It had been 11 years since their last trip to Nationals in Division III. In addition, UCSD finishes the year ranked ninth, its highest ranking since entering Division II in 2000.

    “I really thought we played to our ability this year,” Steidlmayer said. “The goal was to play good in the playoffs, and I liked how they tried hard. It’s been a season of firsts with three guys ranked in the top 50 for the first time, having [Chopra and Wilson] ranked second in doubles, and making it to nationals.”

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