DOUBLES PLAY LEADS TENNIS TO VICTORY

    The No. 16 UCSD men’s tennis team won its fourth straight match Feb. 22 over No. 14 Concordia University in National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics play by a score of 7-2, improving its overall season record to 5-1.

    Erik Jepsen/Guardian
    Sophomore Kazumi Negishi and his partner, freshman Bijan Moallemi, defeated their doubles team opponents from Concordia University with a close, last-minute victory of 9-8 on Feb. 22.

    The team took an early 3-0 lead with a sweep in doubles play. No. 1 doubles juniors Blake Meister and Eric Rubens and No. 2 doubles seniors Steven Oechel and Seth Spector won their matches easily, 8-3 and 8-2, respectively.

    The last pair of freshman Bijan Moallemi and sophomore Kazumi Negishi had the hardest match, winning 9-8 in an exhilarating competition that required extra games to decide the contest.

    The singles matches were equally exciting, with the Tritons winning four of the six matchups. No. 5 singles Negishi was the first to finish his match, defeating his opponent with ease over two sets, 6-4, 6-0. No. 4 freshman singles Brandon Low clinched the match for the Tritons with another quick win, 6-2, 6-2.

    Head coach Eric Steidlmayer seemed impressed with Low’s recent level of play.

    “”Brandon has had a great start for a freshman,”” Steidlmayer said. “”He has accepted his role, is intent on improving and has been a great addition to our team.””

    While Low enjoyed his important win, the freshman was quick to downplay his role in the team’s win.

    “”We pretty much had the match before I even clinched it,”” he said. “”It felt good to get it since I’m a freshman and only played a couple of games.””

    The victory saved No. 3 senior singles Seth Spector from playing a full third set, instead forcing a super tiebreaker.

    Unfortunately, Spector dropped the tiebreaker, losing in three sets, 1-6, 6-2, 6-10. No. 2 junior singles Eric Rubens came up with numerous clutch points to win the first set and managed to cruise through the second set, winning 7-6, 6-4, while No. 6 junior singles Ramesh Thondapu had no problem with his opponent, winning 6-4, 6-1.

    The last loss came when No. 1 singles Moallemi, who played tough in the first set but lost it in the second set, dropped his match 5-7, 1-6.

    According to Steidlmayer, the plan is to continue the platoon at the No. 1 spot between Rubens and Moallemi.

    “”We determined early in the year that Eric and Bijan would each play both spots, as their play showed them to be somewhat equal,”” Steidlmayer said. “”And both have got some very big wins already. Both have proven their merit to play at that top spot.””

    Steidlmayer was very proud of the way his team played despite playing a weaker team than the Division I competitors they faced at the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Invitational.

    “”Concordia is a pretty tough opponent, but not as strong as some of the teams we have been playing,”” he said. “”The team played pretty well.””

    However, Steidlmayer made it clear that the upcoming matches will definitely be more difficult and that there is no reason to take opposing teams lightly just because teams are in Division II.

    “”The D-II competition varies as to the level of play,”” Steidlmayer said. “”Some teams are very tough, tougher than the D-I teams we have defeated.””

    The team has ridden its four-game winning streak to a high national ranking, No. 16. If the Tritons can maintain their winning ways, they are bound to make their way to nationals and move one step closer to their goal of winning it all.

    “”It is a good accomplishment to be seen as one of the better teams in the nation,”” Steidlmayer said. “”I don’t think our players feel pressure being ranked that high, as I know their goal is to be ranked higher and [they] are set on proving that. I think that the same holds true for me as a coach.””

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