2005, 2007, 2009 and now 2013? After a weekend winning streak by UC Santa Cruz men’s tennis against three ranked teams in three days, coach Bryce Parmelly said his second season as UCSC coach will end like his last season as a UCSC senior in 2005 — with a national title.
In the weekend of March 9–11, the No. 11 Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) ranked Banana Slugs defeated No. 16 Pomona-Pitzer 8–1 on March 9, before beating No. 20 Texas-Tyler 6–3 on March 10 and No. 13 Whitman College 8–1 on March 11.
The long weekend of tough opponents and tougher vollies was scheduled by Parmelly to be an early test for his team, who will face two more ranked opponents, No. 3 Williams College and No. 14 Middlebury, before entering playoffs.
“We designed the weekend to simulate the experience these guys would face in a national championship situation,” Parmelly said. “We’ve been talking about this weekend for months.”
Men’s tennis player Erich Koenig said he enjoyed the spirit his team showed in hammering home three wins against ranked competition.
“We got better every day that we played,” Koenig said.
Men’s tennis is currenty UCSC’s most successful program. The team has finished 13 times in NCAA’s top two positions since 1988. Their last title came in 2009 and followed championship victories in 2005 and 2007. The 2009 title bookended seniors Sam Rodgers, Erich Koenig, Andre Halabi and Erik Rosner freshman year with the team.
The final match of the weekend was Monday’s matchup with Whitman College and was considered to be a strong victory for the team. Players were heard whispering of how much they wanted to win the match, sentiments that were drowned out by Whitman fan’s loud support for their favorite players throughout the day.
Last season, Whitman men’s tennis recorded the team’s first victory over UCSC in their school’s history. While this year’s matchup ended in a lopsided 8–1 win for the Banana Slugs, a singles matchup between UCSC senior Sam Rodgers and Whitman junior Steven Roston continued long after their teammates finished playing.
Their singles matchup, originally one part of six matches taking place on UCSC’s East Field courts, featured numerous rallies of six or seven shots as the match time crept past two hours.
Around 30 fans and players descended on the immediate bleachers surrounding Rodgers and Roston as both players battled for an advantage in the first two sets of the match. Unlike their teammates’ matches that day, Rodgers and Roston had to play a tiebreaker.
As the match wore on, Rodgers’ conditioning was the difference that Roston could not catch up to. Without breaking a sweat in the 10-point tiebreaker, Rodgers finished the match by firing back several unanswered points to stun the watching Whitman players, who were hoping to take one more individual win before packing to go home.
Despite a long match time, many fans and players said the ending was anti-climactic. The match lasted two and half hours — a half hour more than any of Roston’s or Rodger’s teammates played.
Coach Parmelly was not surprised by Rodger’s dedication to playing tough in the two-and-half hour match.
“He’s the hardest working player on the team,” Parmelly said.
Roston said he disliked losing the singles matchup to Rodgers.
“I learned I had to go more with the ebbs and flows of the game if I want to win against a player like that,” Roston said, whose mother and sister accompanied him to the game. “I knew once everyone was done I had to perform at my highest level.”
Parmelly said Rodgers was a strong example of why he believes his team has the potential to win the championship this season.
“My guys are tough,” Parmelly said. “And they don’t like losing.”
The UC Santa Cruz men’s tennis team will play Middlebury, Williams College and DePauw on March 24, 25 and 26 in Claremont, Calif. Their next home match will be against Cal Lutheran on April 14.