Tritons Stay Perfect Against D-II Schools

With a 9-0 win over the University of Hawaii-Hilo on April 3, the No. 13 men’s tennis team improved its overall record to 9-8, a positive turnaround from the Tritons’ 0-6 start to the season.

Greg Dale/Guardian
Sophomore Blake Meister and the UCSD men’s tennis team have been on a tear since starting the season 0-6. With their most recent 9-0 win over the University of Hawaii-Hilo Vulcans, the No. 13 Tritons improved to 9-8, including a perfect 5-0 record against Division-II opponents.

UCSD came into the last match of a 10-game homestand, against the No. 32 Vulcans, with two wins in their last two tries, including another 9-0 clobbering of Sonoma State. The most recent 9-0 shutout keeps the Tritons undefeated against NCAA Division-II opponents this year with a 5-0 mark.

To keep their streak alive, the Tritons needed the usual strong play of their dominant doubles duos, which took out all three of their Vulcan counterparts for a 3-0 lead going into singles play.

The Tritons’ No. 1 and the nations’ No. 19 pair of Erik Oijala and Blake Meister managed an 8-5 win, while Brent Molden and Steven Oechel notched an 8-4 victory. The last duo, No. 3 Eric Rubens and Kazumi Negishi kept the doubles squad perfect with their 8-5 win over the Vulcans’ Mitchel Gelina and Tomas Mikulasek.

Meister said he attributes his and Oijala’s doubles play to experimenting with new methods.

“Erik and I have a unique style called I-form or renegade style,” Meister said. “It’s great because it covers up our weaknesses and plays to our strengths. We didn’t use it as effectively last year, but we’ve been practicing and it has really payed off this season.”

No matter how good their doubles teams are, the Tritons’ matches still put twice the emphasis on singles play. Although their doubles have been more consistent this year, UCSD’s singles play has been anything but second rate. In singles play, the Tritons used a combination of their doubles players and fresh legs from the bench. Nationwide No. 50 Molden, Rubens, Meister, Oijala and Negishi all showed their stamina, winning each of their singles matches fresh off doubles victories to give the Tritons an insurmountable 8-0 lead. Meister was the only one who really encountered resistance from his opponent, Mikulasek, seeing his match go to three sets, with Meister coming away with the 7-6, 3-6, 10-4 victory.

The last singles win came from Ramesh Thondapu, whose 6-4, 6-1 dismissal of the Vulcans’ Fuyuki Samejima gave the Tritons their second-straight 9-0 victory.

The first one came on April 1, when the Tritons hosted Sonoma State and the University of Hawaii-Pacific for a doubleheader. The 9-0 shutout came against Sonoma State in the later match, with Meister, Molden, Rubens, Oechel (making his singles debut) and Negishi leading the way with victories each in singles and doubles. However, the Tritons did not have such an easy time facing No. 31 Hawaii-Pacific.

The match started with singles play, with each school winning three apiece. Rubens, Meister and Thondapu were UCSD’s winners and made the doubles competition the deciding factor.

“I had never played singles before doubles,” Meister said. “I knew it was going to be tough with the pressure on for the doubles matches, but Erik always has unbelievable energy and it helps me on the court.”

In the first doubles match, Oijala and Meister lived up to their title as UCSD’s top tandem, beating Sonoma State’s Andrew Laing and Westly Keister in an 8-1 victory.

Molden and Oechel clinched the victory for the Tritons as they defeated Andy Muesse and Miguel Camino 8-4. Rubens and Negishi tallied an 8-4 win in the last match, bringing the final score to 6-3 in favor of the Tritons.

After 10-straight home games, the Tritons will have to face their foes on the road, when the team squares off against cross-town rival Point Loma Nazarene University on April 11.