By Nicole Ramsey
The UC Santa Cruz men’s tennis team was put to the test this weekend in a rough double header against UC Davis and Santa Clara University last Saturday that resulted in losses for the team. The Slugs, winners of last year’s Division III National Championship, found themselves outside of their comfort zone with last weekend’s losses after closing out so strongly last season.
“We were a bit disappointed,” junior Colin Mark-Griffin said. “We had high expectations going into the match.”
The Slugs struggled to defeat their opponents in a series of close matches, but came out with results of 5-1 against UC Davis, a DII school, and 1-2 against the DI Santa Clara University.
“It was a good way to start the season with these close matches,” Coach Bob Hansen said. “We actually had a chance of winning.”
In addition to the early losses for the team, the Slugs entered this season having lost one of the best players in the history of the program, Matt Seeberger, who graduated in the spring. However, that loss did not stop new and returning players from stepping up and playing exceptionally well throughout the team’s early season matches.
Coach Hansen commented on the potential of the team’s impressive freshman newcomers, including Silvio Chiba and Donald James. Hansen has seen both players putting in hard work so far this season and becoming great assets to the team. Chiba won both his matches over the weekend and is playing in the top six positions for the team.
The Slugs took this weekend’s losses as a lesson and are working on keeping their focus and staying optimistic for their season.
“We were used to winning,” Griffin said. “Losing this weekend was a real eye-opener for us.”
Since winning the Division III championship, the expectations for the team are much higher. Instead of basking in the glory, the team is striving to rebuild and focus on making players more prepared to take on tougher competition.
“Our team had been a lot deeper this year,” junior Jared Kamel said. “We have a pretty tough schedule as far as the teams we play, but it’s not rare.”
The team feels confident that it can bounce back from this bump in the road and keep moving toward that national championship title at the end of it.
“Playing hard in the lineup and being able to play at a higher level is a major precedence,” Griffin said. “We know we have the skills, we just need to buckle down.”
The Slugs will take on Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Sunday, Jan. 27, a team they defeated last year in a crucial match that advanced them closer to the championship.
“[Cal Poly is] much improved now and they are coming for us,” Hansen said. “It will be an intense match.”