Despite reaching the Big West Tournament Championship game on a 10-game winning streak and as the No. 1 seed, Cal Poly Men’s Tennis suffered a heartbreaking 4-3 defeat against rivals UC Santa Barbara on Sunday, May 2 in Irvine.
The last time Cal Poly (14-8) won the Big West Tournament title was in 2014.
No. 3 seed UC Santa Barbara (10-5) started the game by taking the doubles point early on. The Gauchos’ pairing of Joseph Guillin and Kai Brady defeated Cal Poly’s duo of redshirt sophomore Gary Vardanyan and redshirt junior Alex Stater 6-4 on the No. 3 court.
Vardanyan and Stater have lost their last two doubles match ups and finished with a record of 9-4 together this season.
UC Santa Barbara clinched the doubles point after their duo of Stefano Tsorotiotis and Alejandro Vedri defeated the Mustangs’ pair of redshirt freshman Joe Leather and redshirt junior Roman Shenkiryk 6-3 on the No. 1 court.
Despite giving up the first point of the game, Cal Poly came back in singles play as redshirt freshman Fernando Fonseca displayed a dominant performance against UCSB’s Joseph Rotherham at the No. 5 spot. Fonseca won his first set 6-2 and won his second set 6-0 to even the overall score at 1-1.
However, the Gauchos regained the lead at the No. 3 spot when Victor Krustev defeated Cal Poly’s senior captain Antoine Noel in two straight sets of 6-4 and 6-3.
The Mustangs evened the score yet again in a contested matchup at the No. 6 spot against Brady. Vardanyan won the first set 6-2, lost the second set 1-6, but came out on top after winning the third set 6-3.
Stater was unable to maintain his singles play efforts over the weekend and finished the season with a 12-6 record after being defeated by Guillin at the No. 1 spot. Stater started off strong, winning the first set 6-2, but dropped the next two sets 7-5 and 6-3 to put the Gauchos in the lead at 3-2.
The Mustangs looked to make a comeback as freshman Noah Berry defeated Tsorotiotis at the No. 2 spot to even the score 3-3. Berry won the first set 7-6 (7-4), gave up the second set 7-6 (7-3) and won the third set 6-4 to clinch the point.
The final match at the No. 4 spot was winner-take-all and would decide the tournament champion. Leather started off by defeating UCSB’s Pablo Masjuan 7-6 (7-1) in the first set, but ultimately lost the next two decisive sets 7-6 (9-7) and 7-6 (7-3) to grant the Gauchos the championship.
Despite the loss, the Mustangs completed a strong, competitive season, going undefeated in conference play and remaining undefeated since March 7.