After going down 3–0, the UC San Diego men’s tennis team (2–2) went on a 4–0 run to defeat the Sacramento State Hornets (1–1). The win marks the Tritons’ first win over Sacramento State in team history.
Coming off a tough loss against the University of San Francisco, the Tritons were in desperate need of a victory. In that matchup, the only winner that came out was a doubles game with sophomore Pelayo Rodriguez and senior Phillip Lan. The Tritons played a hard-fought match against an experienced San Francisco squad, but were unable to stymie the momentum of the opposition in their first game of the season.
UCSD started poorly, losing both initial doubles matches to lose the doubles point and go down 1-0. Sacramento State’s Mark Keki won 6–1, 6–2 over UCSD’s senior Daniel Traxler to make it 2–0, and freshman Adam Chodur made it 3–0 for Sacramento State with a 6–4, 6–4 win against freshman Diogo Tinoco.
As Triton head coach Timmer Willing told UCSD Athletics, “Our guys were asked a simple question: are you going to survive or surrender?” The Tritons clearly chose survival, with sophomore Charles Qian making it 4-0 for his season so far and winning 6–2, 6–1 to put UCSD on the board. Senior Phillip Lan made it 3-2 in the overall tally with a 6-1, 7-5 win, and junior Jett Cole won a tight match 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 to level things out and set up a deciding matchup.
These thrilling games put Sacramento State on their heels when it seemed like UCSD had no hope to recover. The convincing victory by Qian put the Tritons right back in the mix of things with his consistently spectacular play. The Tritons did struggle in the doubles matchups, losing all three matches and giving the Tritons an unfortunate hole to manage. Players Rodriguez and Cole had difficult showings in their doubles match, but each played a key role in the eventual victory. Rodriguez was given the chance to take the crucial game and match for the Tritons, and the young sophomore was more than ready to convert for his team.
Pelayo Rodriguez sent Triton hearts racing by losing the first set 4-6, but won a tightly contested second set 7–5. He then romped to victory in the third, 6-0, to seal a tight draw with Sacramento State by a 4–3 margin. The miraculous comeback is something this program can build on as they move forward this season. Confidence and rhythm is important for the team’s improvement, and this performance was one step closer to a complete performance from the entire team.
“They chose to stay out and just compete,” Willing added after the matches were complete. “Sacramento State is a very talented and tough team, and we happened to hold on and take it with some effective crucial point play.”
Willing was obviously proud of his team’s ability to stay the course and scrap to victory. Not every team has the constitution to find a way to win after a disappointing loss the day prior and consecutive losses to start the day, but the effort that the Tritons put on display must bode well for the rest of the season. Performances by players like Rodriguez and Cole show the gutsiness that this team will need to embody to meet their lofty goals.
After an impressive victory, the Tritons will look to keep their momentum high on their upcoming road trip. The Tritons face Loyola Marymount at home on Jan. 29 at 1 p.m., before a road trip next weekend to Santa Clara and the University of the Pacific.
Photo Courtesy of Kathleen Shiroma of the UCSD Guardian