Tennis's Run Comes to an End in Semis

    The ninth-ranked UCSD men’s tennis team’s remarkable national run came to a disappointing end with a 1-5 loss in the semifinals on May 11, ending the Tritons’ best season with a third-place national finish.

    Erik Jepsen/Guardian
    The men’s tennis team had a season to remember, finishing with an 18-7 record and a third-place showing at the Division II National Championship Tournament. The Tritons made the semifinal round but fell 1-5 to Valdosta State University on May 11 to end their successful season.

    The Tritons fell behind during doubles play in the match against fifth-ranked Valdosta State University, losing two of the three contests. Head coach Eric Steidlmayer acknowledged that doubles play has been a problem for UCSD before and that the team needed its best showing in doubles to have a chance to continue in the postseason.

    “”My concern for doubles was that if we wanted to win against the top teams, we had to get the doubles points,”” Steidlmayer said. “”We obviously did not do that this match.””

    The team’s lone point came from its No. 3 doubles pair, as freshman Bijan Moallemi and sophomore Kazumi Negishi dominated their opponents, cruising to an 8-2 win. The opposite held true for the other doubles pairs, as No. 2 seniors Seth Spector and Steven Oechel struggled in their match, losing 3-8. No. 1 pair juniors Eric Rubens and Blake Meister put up more of a fight but still eventually fell, 5-8.

    The Tritons were also overwhelmed in singles play as Valdosta State clinched the victory with three straight set wins. No. 1 singles Rubens lost 4-6, 2-6, while No. 4 singles freshman Brandon Low was defeated 1-6, 0-6. No. 6 singles Negishi also lost, 2-6, 2-6. The team was also trailing in the other three singles matches before play was stopped when the victory was clinched.

    Steidlmayer expressed disappointment toward the team’s level of play throughout the match.

    “”I thought we just played a sub-par match,”” Steidlmayer said. “”A little average, under-average; we did not play too badly but by no means did we play well.””

    Spector was also disappointed.

    “”We came out very excited because we knew we had a chance to win and I think the guys competed very well,”” Spector said. “”But unfortunately the match got away from us in the end. It wasn’t one of our best matches but we competed hard, it was a tough match. They were the better team this match.””

    The loss put an end to the most successful season in UCSD men’s tennis history as the team finished with an 18-7 record and a third place-finish in nationals. Spector said the loss was a bittersweet end to the team’s season.

    “”The tough thing is we got close,”” Spector said. “”It’s disappointing in that respect, but we still have a lot to be proud of about. We accomplished a lot. We are happy with how we played and our efforts.””

    Steidlmayer praised his team’s performance over the course of the season.

    “”Results wise, it was a tremendous year; not only nationals but defeating two ranked Division I teams, beating everyone in the West region and getting the [number] one seed,”” Steidlmayer said. “”Of course, over the whole season there were ups and downs. [But] overall we performed well.””

    With only two seniors departing after the season, the Tritons will be bringing back nearly the entire team next year.

    Steidlmayer was cautious about predicting UCSD’s chances at a national title next year but still expressed hope.

    “”I think it will just depend on what the players decide to do over summer and their practice habits,”” Steidlmayer said. “”Whether we will be able to replace Steve and Seth will depend a lot on [the rest of the team] improving a lot over the summer.””

    Spector agreed with Steidlmayer.

    “”I’ve heard we have a couple of recruits coming in and we’ve already had a deep roster this year, so hopefully some of the other guys will step it up,”” Spector said. “”They can do it but it’ll be tough as always.””

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