USTA Tennis on Campus – Spring Invitational
It was the final competitive tournament of the year for the UC San Diego Competitive Club Tennis Team this past weekend, April 8th through the 10th. Three teams from UC San Diego, totaling about 30 people, travelled to Tucson, Arizona to compete in Tennis on Campus’ Annual Spring Invitational which was host to a total 48 teams from all around the nation. The stakes were high as only the two teams to reach the final round of the Gold Bracket – determined after an initial day of round robin pool play– would qualify for the Nationals bid for the following season. The UC San Diego A-team went in with exactly that goal in mind, determined to course correct following their dramatic loss at Sectionals earlier in the year. The B team, which ended up with fewer players due to sudden scary injuries and unexpected circumstances, still had their heads held high as they had a strong team going into the weekend. C team had confidence that they could outperform their non-existent expectations which is exactly what they did.
Friday April 8, 2016:
During the first day of competition, UC San Diego-A was put into a pool with 3 other teams from across the nation: Northern Arizona University B-team, DePaul University B-team, and UC Santa Cruz A-team. It was imperative for UC San Diego-A to win all of their matches so that they would be put into the top-level Gold Bracket, as well as achieve a high winning percentage so that they could get the highest seed possible. Fortunately, it was smooth sailing for A-team as they won each match handily. A-team faced NAU-B first, but with a special set of rules that shortened gameplay to only 4 games per set due to rain the previous night. UC San Diego’s A-team took care of the first match against NAU-B, 20-1. The next match against DePaul-B went fairly smoothly as well, with the format of the matches returning to the normal 6-games/set format. A-team was able to pull off an impressive 30-4 win, with Qing Wen and Amy Lin in women’s doubles as well as Lin and Alexander Loh in mixed doubles pulling off 6-0 wins.
Finally, A-team’s last match was against UCSC-A, with both doubles matches giving a 12-1 lead going into singles. Wu and Sabada had some tougher matches with their opponents, but still came out with big wins to give A-team a large buffer of 24-6 going into mixed. Loh and Lin got the job done with a solid 6-3 win, giving A-team their 3rd win in the pool 30-9. Impressively enough, A-team ended up with an 85.11% winning percentage, the highest of all the teams in the entire tournament, and thus cemented the 1st seed in Gold Bracket.
For B Team, their first match was also shortened to 4 games due to the rain. First up was a match up with CO School of Mines A. Charlie Tamer and John Rabalais held strong at 4-2 in the men’s doubles, Denise Ogranovich and Ariel Lee got a great 4-1 win in the women’s, Mikaela McNally got a 4-2 singles win and Brian Bliss just lost out 3-4 on a tie break (3-5). McNally and Tim Harris played the mixed, losing the set by a single point 3-4 (4-5) which forced overtime. However, they won the first game to stop overtime and the match was won by UC San Diego-B 19-13.
MSU-A was next. They were a very strong team and unfortunately proved to be too much for B team. Full set scores: John/Tim 0-6, Ariel/Denise 2-6, Mikaela 4-6, Brian 4-6, and Charlie/Ariel 3-6. The final score was 13-30 and we concluded that what MSU lack in clothing (many of their guys opted to play shirtless), they made up for with their skill the court.
The final match of the day for B team was against Fullerton B, who were a very friendly team. We managed four out of five wins as follows: Charlie/John 6-5 (5-2), Ariel/Denise 6-2, Ariel 6-2, Brian 4-5 (sub John 4-6) and Mikaela/Tim 6-3. Final score was a strong win 28-18. Two out of three wins put B team comfortably into silver bracket.
UC San Diego C-team was placed in a pool with the Pepperdine A-team, the Washington State University A-team, and the University of Arizona B-team. The results of this pool play would determine which bracket the team would play in on the following day. Unfortunately, the C-team, despite some hard fought matchesm went 0-3 in the pool. The scores for the day were 15-17 against the University of Arizona B-team, 17-24 against the WSU A-team, and 15-26 against the Pepperdine A-team. Despite the losses, each of these matches had some key moments that showcased the talent on C-team. Against the U of A B-team, the team of Anurag Coramutla and Celyne Moh played some inspired mixed doubles to push the match into overtime in which they managed to win 2 more games. Against the WSU A-team, Tokunosuke Takahashi (Toku) trounced his opponent 6-1 which kept the C-team in it until the final set. Finally, in the final match of the day against the Pepperdine A-team, Celyne Moh and Ben Cauffman won a thrilling 6-5 victory to push the match into overtime which they unfortunately fell short in. Normally, a team that loses all the matches in their pool would be sentenced to the lowest bracket, but because of how close each match was, they qualified for the Copper Bracket (4th level of 5 total).
Saturday April 9, 2016:
It was the second day of competition and the UC San Diego A team couldn’t have been more focused and prepared for the challenge that lay ahead of them. Gold Bracket consisted of 16 teams, with many tough teams including UC Irvine’s A- and B-teams, Michigan State University’s B-team, and the B-teams of USC and UCLA (whose A-teams had already received bids for this year’s Nationals). UC San DIego A-team faced off against University of New Mexico-A in the Round of 16, comfortably winning the match with a score of 27-8. It was this match that established the dominance of the men’s doubles combination of Lee and Vo, as their shouts of “FEARLESS!” penetrated the air and allowed them to pull off yet another 6-0 victory. This set the tone for the rest of the match against UNM.
In the quarterfinals, UC San Diego-A faced a much tougher opponent, Cornell University’s B-team. While Men’s and Women’s doubles were able to give a 12-3 lead going into singles, Wu and Sabada faced much more difficult opponents, and Cornell was only 4 games away at 19-15 going into the final mixed doubles match. It was imperative that UC San Diego-A halt their momentum in mixed doubles. The lineup was changed and Lee and Lin were put in for mixed doubles. The two gave A-team a solid 6-4 victory which sealed the win over Cornell-B 25-19. This was their closest match of the tournament thus far.
UC San Diego-A was now in the semifinals of Gold Bracket, one match away from their goal of getting the bid to next year’s Nationals. UC Irvine-A stood in their way. It was a much anticipated matchup, as not only were there many familiar faces on UCI’s team, but both teams shared a love of friendly competition, an emphasis on sportsmanship, and a desire for a rematch since their last encounter at Sectionals. Vo and Lee, aka “Team Fearless” started out against Gabe Cupino and Winston Ngo of UCI-A, while Wen and Lin set out against Linsey Wilson and Melissa Huang in women’s doubles. It was a neck-and-neck battle between the two teams, both fighting for some sort of lead as both doubles matches went to tiebreakers. In the end, Team Fearless was able to pull out a clutch 6-5(3) win, their 16th consecutive tournament victory since UCLA’s tournament last November, while Wen and Lin were able to make a valiant comeback with a tight 5-6(1) loss which tied up the overall match 11-11.
It was now up to UC San Diego-A to attempt to get a lead with Wu and Sabada at singles once again. Wu faced Ngo, a tough opponent, while Sabada battled it out against Jennifer Andra, who was later subbed by Wilson later in the match. Despite having given up 3 match points at 5-2 (40-0), Sabada was able to quickly bounce back to finish off the match at 6-3. The match between Wu and Ngo was much more heated, as both players battled with neither player giving an inch, but in the end, Ngo came out the victor, defeating Wu 6-4. UC San Diego-A was now only up by 1 game going into mixed, 21-20. It would all come down to the mixed doubles match.
The UC San Diego pair battled it out against UCI’s Cupino and Huang, who proved to be an amazing challenge. The match was dead even throughout; as it progressed, it was tied at both 2-2 and 4-4. It finally came down to a 5-point tiebreaker at 5-5 in the set, a crucial moment that would decide whether UC San Diego would go to Nationals, or if the two teams would have to play an ultimate super tiebreaker to decide the match. The atmosphere was exciting yet tense, as UC San Diego and UCI gave it their all point by point. Eventually, Lee and Lin were given with 2 match points in the tiebreaker, with Lee faced with Cupino’s heavy kick serve. But against such a difficult serve, Lee couldn’t do much, and UCI-A won the set 5-6. It was time for a final, decisive super tiebreaker.
With UC San Diego coach Stephen Yu and UCI coach Iris Mark providing both mixed teams with strategies and encouragement, the crowd could not have been more excited to see the outcome, with UC San Diego’s B- and C-teams as well as UCI’s B-team, all watching intensely courtside. Lee and Lin jumped out to a critical 4-0 start in the tiebreak. They would retain their lead and stretch it to 6-2, meaning that UC San Diego had 4 opportunities to close out the match and secure the 2017 Nationals bid. To prevent any potential comeback, it was absolutely exigent for Lee to finish the match on his serve. A nerve-wracking double fault gave UCI one more point, bringing the score to 6-3, but Lee was finally able to finish off the match with another bomb of a serve as Huang’s return floated out of bounds. UC San Diego was going to Nationals in 2017! Final score: 27-26
For the B team, the quarterfinals of silver bracket saw UC San Diego playing against DePaul B. In this match we got our strongest, unforgiving and most fearless win of the tournament. Ariel/Denise 6-0, Bruce/Charlie 6-0, Mikaela 6-3, Brian 6-3, Mikaela/John 6-3. Boom. 30-9.
The semi-final saw slightly tougher opponents from Cal State Fullerton A. Ariel/Denise 6-2, Charlie/Bruce 6-4, Mikaela 6-5 (5-2), Chris 6-2. It should be noted here that Chris was playing in his first set since injuring his ankle and closed the set out flawlessly after tying it up at 2-2, a well-played match. Into mixed, Ariel/Tim suffered a 4-6 loss, however, UC San Diego B had a comfortable lead of 9 games going into overtime. Our mixed opposition had been told by their team they would receive $5 for each game they came back in overtime. For that reason and that reason only, we let them get one back. Then we closed it out, 1-1. Final score 29-20. UC San Diego -B was in the finals of the Silver Bracket!
UC San Diego C-team started well the second day of the tournament in Copper Bracket by taking down the University of Wyoming-A team with a score of 25-18. The highlight of this matchup was the clutch win by the doubles team of Rachel Storer and Celyne Moh (who subbed in for Hannah Folk at 1-2). Storer/Moh came back to win the set 6-5, by winning the tiebreaker 5-3. Next came the match between UC San Diego -C and Washington University in St. Louis-B. This was an extremely close match with two tiebreak sets in men’s doubles and men’s singles. Also crucial for keeping this match close was the efforts of Xochitl Vasquez who was able to go up 2-1 in women’s singles before subbing herself out due to illness. Going into mixed doubles down by 2 games, Ben and Celyne were unable to pull out the win, but put in their effort and lost the set 3-6. After day 2, UC San Diego -C was primed for an exciting 3rd/4th place playoff match against Arizona State University D-team.
At the end of the day on Saturday, B and C teams rushed to see UC San Diego A team win a thrilling close tiebreaker against UC Irvine A team. We were all a little disappointed in the time clash and the change of site as that meant we missed the players’ party which included a mini tennis competition and a dance-off. However, with the Nationals bid in hand and with the entire team in good spirits, being tardy to the player’s party did not take much away from the atmosphere and the enjoyment.
Sunday April 10, 2016
While UC San Diego -A had already achieved their goal of attaining the Nationals for the next competitive season, there was still a job to be done: winning the final match of the tournament. USC-B was the final obstacle. To switch things up, Lee and Loh took on Men’s Doubles, while Wen and Lin remained in Women’s Doubles. Having not played an official, competitive match together, Lee and Loh struggled against USC-B, especially as Loh was battling an injured wrist throughout the entire weekend. Luckily, despite having lost one of the 2 match points in the tiebreaker, Lee and Loh were able to pull off a 6-5(4) win, with Loh slamming one of his signature volleys on sudden death point into the bottom left corner of the court. Wen and Lin were also able to defeat their opponents rather handily, achieving a service break to attain a lead and defeated their opponents 6-3. Wu and Sabada also produced some absolutely brilliant play in each of their matches respectively, with Wu defeating his opponent with a skillful drop volley on match point in the tiebreaker to win 6-5(3) and Sabada absolutely demolishing her opponent with a 6-0 sweep. With a very solid lead going into mixed, Lin and Lee took the stage one last time to finish of their match 6-2, defeating USC-B with an overall score of 30-15 to win the Spring Invitational tournament.
Sunday had just one match left in store for UC San Diego B team: the finals of silver bracket. Bruce/Charlie 1-5, (sub Brian 1-6), Ariel/Denise 1-3 (sub Mikaela 3-6), Brian 0-3 (sub Chris 2-6), Mikaela 6-4, Ariel/John 3-6. As can be seen, we tried using subs to switch up the pace and throw our opponents off guard, but unfortunately it was not enough and B team lost 15-28 to take second place in silver.
UC San Diego -C placed 3rd in the second worst bracket. What may not be evident on paper, however, was palpable in person, especially seeing the amount of heart that the C-team played with. No loss was too devastating, and no victory was too relieving. When UC San Diego Club Tennis looks back on this tournament, the C-team will probably be overshadowed by the amazing (and more successful) performances of A and B team, but what will hopefully be remembered from this team is how to win with humility and lose with grace, and to play passionately throughout.
As a whole, Spring Invitationals is the most highly-anticipated event for the UC San Diego club tennis team. The combination of the fun atmosphere, competitive matches, the ability to have so many participants play, and the chance to meet players from all around the nation make it a unique season-ending experience. Each of UC San Diego’s teams at Arizona played absolutely amazingly, with members of each team giving their full support to the other teams. UC San Diego’s tennis team has faced adversity and setbacks this year but in spite of them, through hard work and strong dedication to the game, the team came together in a very strong showing down in Tucson, Arizona, with A team getting the winner’s trophy and securing a bid to the 2017 Nationals tournament, B team getting the runner-up trophy in the Silver Bracket, and C team coming in third in the Copper Bracket. Go Tritons!
A-Team Members: Erik Wu (Captain), Ryan Lee (Captain), Kyle Vo, Alexander Loh, Justin Yang, Michael Nacinopa, Amy Lin, Qing Wen, and Smita Sabada
B-Team Members: Tim Harris (Captain), Denise Ogranovich (Captain), Brian Bliss, John Rabalais, Charlie Tamer, Bruce Fan, Chris Sreesangkom, Ariel Lee, Mikaela McNally, Josephine Kozlowski
C-Team Members: Ben Cauffman (Captain), Celyne Moh (Captain), Richard Mendoza, Anurag Coramutla, Xochitl Vasquez, Rachel Storer, Hannah Folk, Tokunosuke “Toku” Takahashi