Roster setbacks, mindset hold back Tritons in tight 4–3 Nevada loss

Roster setbacks, mindset hold back Tritons in tight 4–3 Nevada loss
Photo by Sophie Nourbakhsh/ UCSD Guardian

Down two of the team’s foremost seniors, the UC San Diego men’s tennis team (0–5) came up just short against Mountain West Conference’s Nevada (1–0), taking the game to the final match in a 4–3 loss. The Tritons now hold a 1–3 all-time record against the Wolf Pack.


“They’re competing against guys maybe a little bit out of their range, but they’re hanging in there,” head coach Timmer Willing said to The UCSD Guardian after the match. “I think they need to understand themselves a little bit better, and then instead of worrying about who they’re playing with, it’s like, ‘Hey, you still have a job to do.’”


The Tritons held their own in doubles, with position one duo junior Pelayo Rodriguez and sophomore Zach Pallachuoud exchanging game points with Nevada for much of the match. The pair put on a masterclass during the sixth game, not allowing the Wolf Pack a single point to level the score at 3–3; however, the match ended 6–3 in favor of Nevada.


“It’s been surprising,” Rodriguez said post-match. “We didn’t expect to play together, but Daniel [Traxler] is injured, so we switched it up a bit, and it’s been feeling great, super fun.”


Rodriguez and Pallachuoud relied on power during the match, opting to force the ball past their opponents rather than dropping the ball short. Accordingly, the court fence, with its proximity to the lines, occasionally played a role in preventing both teams from reaching the ball.


Senior William Lan and freshman Carson Lee also posted a strong effort at the two position, going game-for-game throughout the first six games. Despite the effort, a strong Nevada campaign on the first court led to Lan and Lee’s match being cut short as UCSD dropped the doubles point.


Rodriguez ramped up in singles play, moving up to face off in the third position following usual first position Phillip Lan’s absence. The junior traded his power for placement to control the two-set match. 


After securing the first set, Rodriguez remained disciplined, picking out the corners to claim the victory. The penultimate sequence, a bait into the far right side that allowed Rodriguez to clinically slam the ball into the opposite corner as his opponent stood stationary, summed up the performance.


“It’s been a tough start for me, personally, for singles,” Rodriguez said. “I used the motivation from the loss from yesterday to come up fired up, and it luckily came my way today.”


Rodriguez added about the performance: “I think I played slightly more aggressive than the other matches … I held my ground … and I’m proud of that, but still very, very, very sad that today we couldn’t take it our way.”


Rodriguez’s doubles partner Pallachuoud played the longest singles match of the day, falling just short of a comeback victory after evening the score at one set apiece. A strong forehand, amicably dubbed “The Hammer” by teammates, put Pallachuoud in control for the majority of the match. However, fast reflexes and focused returns secured a 6–2 third set for Nevada that gave the Wolf Pack the 4–3 overall victory.


Pallachuoud’s contest was one of three matches that extended to the third set, the other two a win and loss from sophomore Diogo Tinoco and senior William Lan, respectively. While not three sets, Charles Qian’s fourth position win, consisting of 7–6 and 7–5 sets, was perhaps the tightest match of singles play.


Elevated to the first position minutes before his match, Lee posed an ample threat to Nevada senior Matheo Coupu, who is 4–1 in singles play this season. Long rallies and tight calls characterized the 2–0 loss for the Triton freshman.


“In tennis, somebody is a loser on every point, and it takes some thick skin to control that,” Willing said. “The only way you can [work on this] is be in the situation and learn that, ‘Hey, it’s not the end of the world if I lost a point or if the guy had a good shot.’”


The Tritons have earned a week-long break before their next contest against Utah State (0–0) on Jan. 27. The two sides will face off for the first time on Saturday, with a potential catalyst for victory being taking the foot off the gas for a beat.


“[We need to] relax ourselves a bit after these matches,” Rodriguez said. “We just gotta take maybe one day off and then just start on the grind again.”


Willing agreed. 


“I think getting that started and then how we respond when we come back to practice on Monday or Tuesday … and put ourselves in competitive situations in practice that we have to respond negatively or not respond,” he said. “Then you get a win, and then that tends to snowball.”


UCSD can expect heavy competition on the day as Utah State finished the 2022-23 season 12–13 overall, 3–3 in Mountain West, with wins against mutual opponents like UC Riverside and San Diego State. Fortunately, the Aggies have overhauled their roster with fresh, but relatively untested talent.

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About the Contributors
Senji Torrey, Contributing Writer
Senji is a third-year transfer student majoring in Communication. With three years of grueling high school newspaper experience under his belt, Senji is ready for his big break down in SD!
Sophie Nourbakhsh, Photographer
I'm a simple woman, Mrs. Fundamental like I play for the Spurs
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