Seasiders Eliminate Tritons from NCAA Playoffs

    MEN’S TENNIS — Facing a first-round playoff matchup against No. 29 Brigham Young University-Hawaii in Laie, Hawaii, the glory of a first-round victory and a subsequent celebration on the islands in springtime had to have crossed the minds of the No. 30 UCSD men’s tennis players.

    For the second year in a row, the Tritons entered their bid for regional supremacy in the NCAA Western Regional playoff with a 12-10 record. Unfortunately for the Tritons, it was also the second straight year they were sent home from the Aloha State by Hawaiian hosts after only one round.

    After falling 5-1 to Hawaii Pacific University in the first round of regionals last year, the men’s tennis team fell to BYU-Hawaii 6-1, and ended its season with a 12-11 overall record.

    Head coach Eric Steidlmayer said that the team’s lack of playoff experience was evident in the loss, but that the season was from a disappointment.

    “This team has always given a great effort, and today was no different,” Steidlmayer said. “Challenging BYU-Hawaii again made it evident that our players lack tournament experience. The attitude that they’ve had this year and helping each other improve during the season — those are all positives.”

    Coming into the playoff match, UCSD’s track record with BYU-Hawaii was not promising. The Tritons had already fallen to BYU-Hawaii twice this season prior to the playoff confrontation. On Feb. 12, UCSD lost a close 5-4 matchup to the Seasiders 5-4 during the Paseo Tournament in Arizona, and was hammered 7-2 on March 24 on BYU-Hawaii’s home court.

    Aside from their unfavorable record against BYU-Hawaii, the Tritons entered the playoffs on a wave of momentum, having finished with an 8-3 record against their divisional opponents, and claiming the No. 3 seed in the western region after a 5-4 victory over Sonoma State on March 12.

    The May 6 showdown began with a trio of doubles matches to begin the contest. The No. 2 UCSD doubles team — junior Armaun Ermami and redshirt freshman Austin West — put UCSD on the scoreboard with an 8-5 victory over No. 2 Seasider doubles pair Andy Xing and Agnel Peter. However, the Tritons’ No. 1 team of junior Erik Elliot and sophomore Chapman Chan — along with No. 3 team sophomores Jake Fellow and Sam Ling — lost to Seasider opposition, and the Tritons entered the singles phase trailing 2-1.

    Requiring victories in four of the six remaining singles matches to overturn the deficit and clinch a spot in the regional final, the Triton looked to their singles players for an unlikely upset.

    Unfortunately, the Tritons were outmatched, and the Seasiders capitalized on their advantage in the singles phase. Needing only three victories to reach five total wins and clinch the best-of-nine match, BYU-H senior Dillon Porter beat UCSD sophomore Sam Ling 6-1, 6-3 in the No. 2 singles showdown, giving the Seasiders a 3-1 lead. Fellow and UCSD junior captain Vincent Nguyen lost at the No. 3 and No. 4 positions, respectively, to give BYU-H the 5-1 win.

    After thee fifth match victory for BYU-Hawaii, it became unnecessary to play out the remaining singles matches. As a result, three Triton singles players — Elliot at No. 1, freshman Junya Yoshida at No. 5 and West and No. 6 — all saw their matches suspended.

    “We practiced hard and were preparing for the game, but we just didn’t play at out our top level,” junior captain Vince Nguyen said. “We just didn’t play that well.”

    The loss ended the Triton season with a 12-11 overall record, the same as last year. However, since the only upperclassmen on the squad were juniors, the team will return next season in full force, with greater playoff experience and poised for a deeper postseason run.

    “We get the rest of the year off, but we’re going to keep playing,” Nguyen said. “A lot of guys will play in tournaments in the summer, and then we’ll come back in the school year ready to go again.”

    Readers can contact Tyler Nelson at [email protected].

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