The men’s tennis team completed its undefeated conference season with a narrow 4-3 victory over UC Santa Barbara in the Big West Championship on Sunday in Indian Wells, Calif. The team will advance to the NCAA Championships on May 11.
Sebastian Bell came from behind to clinch the title fro the Mustangs and defeat the Gauchos’ Max Glenn in a third-set tiebreaker. Bell went down 1-0 after dropping the first set 6-4 but rallied in the second to win 6-1.
“Dropping the first set was pretty disappointing for me because that wasn’t representative of how I felt the match was going,” Bell said at a press conference.
In the decisive third set, Bell took a point from Glenn while he served and propelled the match into a tiebreaker. Bell then proceeded to outduel Glenn and take the final point, winning the tiebreaker 7-4 and the match by a 7-6 margin.
“I had been there before last year, so I knew what was required, what it was going to feel like,” Bell said. “That gave me an advantage and going forward helped a lot because he kind of crumbled in the tiebreak.”
His teammates mobbed the court following the victory while head coach Nick Carless, who didn’t watch the final point, collected himself before joining the celebration.
“I’ve been through a lot of college tennis matches in my nine years of coaching and that certainly was more of an emotionally packed one than I can imagine,” Carless said at a press conference. “I wanted so badly for the guys on the team to experience the thrills of victory because of what they went through last year and how much hard work they put in to get to that point.”
The 64th-ranked doubles team of Andre Dome and Matt Fawcett kicked off the match against UCSB with a 8-2 win while Jurgen De Jager and Marco Comuzzo clinched the doubles point with an 8-6 win over Ziad Sultan and Alexander Gryaznov.
Dome, boasting a No. 40 ranking nationally, won both sets against No. 124 Mathieu Forget and set up Bell’s championship-clinching win. The only other Mustang to win a singles match was De Jager who beat Sultan 6-2, 6-4.
The Big West Championship culminated the conference portion of Carless’s first year as men’s tennis head coach. His squad went 15-7 in the regular season while going 6-1 at home and sweeping their Big West opponents.
In the championships last weekend, the Mustangs received a first-round bye due to their first-place finish in the regular season. In the second round, Cal Poly quickly defeated UC Davis 4-0 after taking the doubles point and three singles matches. The remaining matches went unfinished as Cal Poly clinched the match.
Carless said he expects the Mustangs to face a team from California, possibly Pepperdine or Stanford, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“We’ve got to play good tennis, and we don’t need to play outside ourselves,” Carless said. “We can play within ourselves and have a good chance to win.”
The Mustangs’ opponent in the NCAA Championship first round will be announced today at 2:30 p.m. on NCAA.com.
J.J. Jenkins contributed to this report.