Triton Men Struggle with Tough Schedule

    MEN’S TENNIS — With the NCAA tournament near, the Tritons
    have prepared themselves with a grueling set of matches down the stretch. Head
    coach Eric Steidlmayer expects the challenging set of opponents to help his
    team peak in the postseason.

    “Our team really needs some competitive matches to properly
    understand what kind of effort it takes to be successful,” he said. “We’ve made
    it a priority to schedule matches against teams in other divisions … so that
    our guys will be prepared for the type of quality teams we will see.”

    With that in mind, the Tritons have been a busy bunch over
    the last two weeks. It’s been a tough stretch that has seen the team go 1-6 to
    fall to 9-10 for the year. But in fairness, the stretch has featured some truly
    imposing opponents. Over spring break, the Tritons traveled to Montgomery,
    Ala.
    for the Blue/Gray Jamboree. Over a
    four-day stretch from March 26 through March 29, UCSD played five matches, including
    games against top-five schools University
    of West Florida
    and Valdosta
    State University
    .
    The road trip also featured a match against National Association of
    Intercollegiate Athletics powerhouse Auburn
    University
    at Montgomery,
    hosts of the event and a team that extended its undefeated streak to 16 when
    they beat UCSD 8-1.

    “They’re a tough team,” junior Kaz Negishi said. “Their
    lineup is full of players that have a complete game where you can’t attack them
    anywhere. It was our first match following a long trip, and we weren’t in a
    groove as a team yet. I’m just glad we don’t have to see them again.”

    Next up for UCSD was Valdosta
    State University
    ,
    the second ranked team in Division II. This time around the Tritons handled
    themselves much better, losing 6-3. Steidlmayer resorted to breaking up his
    highly successful doubles team of seniors Eric Rubens and Blake Meister, using
    Rubens with sophomore Alex Placek at the top spot and pairing Meister with
    Negishi at No. 3. Placek and Rubens put up a fight, losing 9-8. Meister and
    Negishi, were impressive in taking out Otto Lenhart and Michael Luech by a 8-3
    margin.

    “Coach thought breaking us up would be best for the team to
    try and gain an early edge in doubles,” Meister said. “Those matches are so
    crucial in getting some momentum because they happen before singles play
    starts.”

    After earning a 2-1 edge in doubles, the Tritons stumbled in
    singles, winning only one match when sophomore Bijan Moallemi’s opponent, Joerg
    Ekkenga, retired after only two games.

    The Tritons’ tough trip continued when they took on No. 27
    Columbus State University. Entering as the favorite, UCSD lost 5-3, dropping
    two three-set singles matches that proved to be the difference. In a heated
    match at the top singles spot, Frank Suarez outlasted Moallemi 6-3, 3-6, 6-2,
    while Brandon Low lost 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 at No. 6.

    In the second half of the doubleheader, the Tritons bounced
    back to win their first and only match of the Jamboree, beating Lindsey
    Wilson College
    .
    UCSD set the tone early, jumping out to a 3-0 lead with a revamped doubles
    lineup. UCSD won matches 8-4, 8-2 and 8-3 at the one, two and three spots,
    respectively. The Tritons held their own in singles, winning four of six to
    clinch a 7-2 victory. Rubens, Placek and sophomore Brandon Low were victorious
    in three-set singles matches.

    The Tritons’ final match in Alabama
    came against No. 4 West Florida. The Tritons fell behind early, losing all
    three doubles matches, but made things very interesting in singles before
    losing 6-3.

    Despite being down 0-3 after doubles, UCSD played inspired
    singles matches and had chances to claim an improbable comeback victory.
    Moallemi and Meister cruised to easy victories, cutting the deficit to 2-3. The
    last three matches on court would all go the distance, with two needing a third
    set tiebreak to settle the match. The Tritons split the two matches that went
    to final set tiebreaks; Negishi won his match at No. 4 singles, while Placek
    lost a tough one after winning the first set.

    Since returning home, UCSD has hosted its last two home
    matches of the season. The Tritons’ first was widely considered the year’s
    premier home game, with No. 10 Hawaii Pacific University coming to test the
    Tritons on the North Courts. UCSD lost 7-2, falling behind after losing two
    doubles matches, and the Tritons couldn’t catch up in singles, where they lost
    five of six.

    UCSD’s final home match came against Cal
    Baptist University

    on April 8. After taking an early 2-1 lead after doubles, the Tritons failed to
    shut the door in singles, losing the match 5-4.

    The Tritons have two regular season games left against Sonoma
    State University

    and UC Davis before the West Regional, which starts on May 8.

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