By Samantha Thompson
This past weekend, UC Santa Cruz men’s tennis players proved once again why theirs is the No.1 ranked DIII team in the country. At the 107th Ojai Valley Tournament, UCSC managed to send nine players into the round of 16, producing an all-Slug singles final where No.1 seed, senior Matt Seeberger, took the title for the fourth straight year.
“I’m still kind of in shock,” Coach Bob Hansen said. “I always have really high expectations for my guys. But when it all comes together, that’s when amazing things like this happens.”
Seeberger was also impressed with the team’s high quality of play.
“I think this showed the depth of our team,” Seeberger said. “Even guys that don’t start were taking out [top] seeds. That really shows what we’re capable of.”
Seeberger did not even have to play anybody seeded in the top eight to win the whole tournament, because his teammates had taken them down in previous rounds. After No.9 seeded freshman Bryan Pybas defeated the No.2 seed from rival university, Claremont, Seeberger and Pybas battled it out for the singles title.
“I was excited because I hadn’t gotten to play him yet,” Pybas said. “But it was kind of weird trying to compete so hard against a friend.”
After dropping the first set, Seeberger turned the match around in his favor and closed it out, winning 4-6, 6-1, 6-1. This gave him his fourth singles title in a row, which had never been done in the tournament’s 107-year history. This win broke the record of three singles wins by Thomas Oechel, a former Slug.
“It felt like it wasn’t just one tournament, but the culmination of four years,” Seeberger said. “Feels good.”
The ever-modest Seeberger continued, “I think I competed better than I actually played. If I had focused on [the title] too much, I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate on what I needed to do to win. But when it happened, it sort of just happened.”
Seeberger’s historic win was seen as very well deserved by the rest of the team and coaches alike.
“We definitely knew he was capable of it,” Assistant Coach Bryce Parmelly said. “When it comes to crunch time, he manages to always pull it out and he does it over and over again. That guy has the ability, and when he needs to, he turns it on.”
Along with singles, the doubles teams also saw success in the tournament, with sophomore Max Liberty-Point and Bryan Pybas making it all the way to the finals, where they ultimately fell to the Pacific Lutheran University in straight sets — their first loss of the season.
The Slugs now focus on the regional tournament, which they will host this weekend, and they hope to continue their streak of success all the way to nationals in St. Louis.
“This is what they’ve all been training for,” Parmelly said. “You never want to expect to win matches, but we’re confident. But we’re definitely not taking anything for granted.”
Parmelly continued, “We’re just doing our best to prepare, and I guarantee that when we get out there, we are going to dig in and fight until the very end. That’s what we do.”