The UC Santa Cruz men’s tennis team has gone through the whole season with one thought constant in their minds: End the season with no regrets.
“[It’s helped] our teams be successful for years and years,” head coach Bob Hansen said a few weeks ago. “I’ll feel happy if we have no regrets at the end of the season.”
This frame of mind proved to be the right one this season as the men’s team cruised through the NCAA playoffs, winning their two regional championship games 5-0 against Whitman and Claremont College.
They then defeated Williams College in the quarterfinals and Emory College in the semifinals 5-0 and 5-4, respectively. This all led up to their 5-0 defeat of No. 6 Amherst College to officially be named the 2009 Division III National Champions.
Though currently ecstatic, the players on the team are quick to point out that this season has been anything but a trip down “easy lane.”
“We’re all super excited,” senior Ilya Gendelman said. “But I’m glad that this roller-coaster of a season has finally paid off.”
Men’s tennis opened up the season with two bad losses to Santa Clara and Fresno Pacific, but battled back to get their record up to .500 going into the ITA DIII National Team Indoor Championships, where they won once and lost twice.
The team then went on a six-game winning streak, beating notable teams such as UC Davis and reassuring high hopes from the beginning of the season.
“We’re on a great stretch right now — we’re confident,” head assistant coach Bryce Parmelly told City on a Hill Press at the time.
Then came the bumps. The Slugs lost to Azusa Pacific in a heartbreaker, 5-4, and continued to trade wins and losses until their April 18 match-up with Colorado College.
The defeat of Colorado College sparked a seven-game winning streak that the Slugs would enjoy through the rest of the season. They topped off their winning streak and season with the defeat of Amherst in the NCAA finals.
Going into this highly anticipated match-up, the men’s team understood the magnitude of what was within their grasp.
“Coach told us that winning a championship is one of the best things that can happen in your life,” senior Jared Kamel said.
Leading the charge, Kamel and junior Marc Vartabedian won their doubles match, as did seniors Max Liberty-Point and Ilya Gendelman. Seniors Max Ortiz and Colin Mark-Griffin also won, to give the Slugs a commanding and important 3-0 lead.
“If we hadn’t swept the doubles there’s a good chance we would have lost,” Kamel said.
Next the Slugs continued their powerful display of dominance in the singles competition. Mark-Griffin won his matches 6-4 and 6-2, and Liberty-Point completed the clean sweep of Amherst, winning his match 6-3 and 7-6. Up 5-0 overall at that point, the Slugs were declared the victors and claimed the seventh NCAA title for the UCSC men’s tennis team.
This year’s championship team has five seniors on the roster, meaning that next season the younger players will be expected to step up their play.
And though nothing is set in stone, some of the seniors — like Gendelman and Liberty-Point — might try their hand at professional tennis, while for others this might have been the last official tennis game they ever played.
Nonetheless, right now members of the team are content in enjoying the feeling of having accomplished their most important pre-season goal.
“I feel better than ever,” Gendelman said. “We definitely ended the year with no regrets.”