Charged from SoCal Sectionals, UC San Diego Wins UCI Winter Classic
Coming off a highly emotional sectionals loss, almost three weeks prior, we brought three teams to UCI with fire in our hearts and one goal in mind: dominating the tournament. The A-Team had a pretty rough first day having to go against hosts UCI-A and a strong second team in USC-B. The weekend started off with a landslide victory over CSU-Fullerton, 30-6. In the next round, we faced who we thought would be our strongest opponents in the tournament, UCI-A. We took a strong 6 game lead after doubles winning both sets 6-3, 6-3. In her first tournament at UC San Diego playing singles, Qing “Vivian” Wen won in a demanding 6-2 fashion while Captain Erik Wu followed up with a big 6-3 win over an opponent who had beaten him before. Unfortunately, the pairing Kyle Vo and Amy Lin lost the set in a sudden death point, but manage to close out the victory by winning the next game. In the last match of the first day, Erik Wu continues his revenge spree by winning 6-2 against another opponent that he previously lost too. It was a strong showing for the first day, going 3-0 and being placed into gold draw.
In the second day of the tournament, we were set off to play against UCI-B. Men’s doubles pairing, Charles Tamer and Alexander Loh staved off a comeback, finishing the match 6-4. The domination in women’s singles continued as Vivian won another match 6-2. The mixed doubles pair once against closed the fight between the two teams in overtime. UCLA-A was the most hyped up team in the tournament, probably with favor to win the tournament. We started off with an even score out of doubles as the undefeated pair of Vivian and Amy won in a dominating 6-1 fashion. After singles, there was a small three game lead going into mixed. Kyle Vo and Amy Lin start off with a quick break and ahead 3-1 on the first switch. After unexpectedly losing the next two games, they kept the mental fortitude to close the match 6-3. Finally, the A-Team was bound for a finals after a few semi-finals appearances. Set to play against USC-A, which on the way had defeated two other UC schools. In their final doubles match, Amy and Vivian went 6-0 in the match and 6-0 for the weekend. Vivian continued her absolute dominance with a 6-1 victory in singles, making her 12-0 in the tournament. Erik Wu lost against a very strong opponent in a close match that led to a tiebreak. For the final match, Goddess Amy Lin and Kyle Vo win in sudden death. A fitting ending for a very necessary tournament win for the Tritons.
On Saturday, the B-Team was slated to play UCI-C, Fullerton-B, and, finally, USC-A. We opened with a strong start in men’s doubles, where first year, Kyohei Takiya, and veteran, Richard Mendoza, routed their opponents 6-1. Women’s doubles started shaky due to nerves, but our only two girls on the team, Renee Walton and Denise Ogranovich, were able to rally from a 1-4 deficit to win 6-4. Singles was our strong point for our matches on Saturday. Women’s singles was played by Renee Walton who displayed relentless domination of her opponents. Men’s singles was played by veteran, Tokunosuke Takahashi. Both played supreme tennis resulting in 6-0 and 6-1, respectively. Mixed doubles was played by another veteran of the team, Denise Ogranovich, and B-team captain, Anurag Coramutla. The pairing played well, closing out the match with a 6-1 victory, defeating UCI-C with a final score of 30-7. Moving into the next matchup, against Fullerton-B, we were in complete control. With the same line-up, the B-Team went up nine games after doubles and then were up an outstanding twenty-one games after singles. Mixed closed out the fight with an annihilating 6-0 win. In our last match of the first day, the B-Team faced the toughest opponent in the pool. It was closely contested, however, the scoreline did not end in our favor. Facing overwhelming loses in all matches, except Women’s Singles (Renee Walton: 6-1) and Men’s Singles (Tokunosuke Takahashi: 3-6), we fell to USC-A 15-25. However, despite this loss, our competitiveness in the match and our dominance in the early part of the day secured a spot in Gold Draw, on Sunday, as the 5th seed.
Going into Sunday, the B-Team was ready to fight for every game. Our first match was against a tough UCLA-B team who was playing at a very high level. Unfortunately, even with the addition of two new players, Brian Bliss and Ariel Lee, and a change in lineup, we were unable to get anything going, and lost 12-30. It was not over yet, we moved into the back draw and this is where the B-Team, despite losing both of our matches, showed our competitive spirit and “never-say-die” attitude. In our match against UCI-A, each set was highly contested. Women’s Doubles, played by Denise and Ariel, played a very close match, winning 6-3. Renee Walton played a tight match at women’s singles. Down 3-5, Renee rallied to send the match into a tiebreak. Unfortunately, she was not able to pull out the win, resulting in a 5-6 loss. Mixed Doubles, now played by Ariel and Anurag faced a tough ask, a 10-game comeback. Despite the team fighting hard, it ended with a 4-6 loss, sealing the match 15-27. Our last match of the day was against UCI-B, a team which was also pretty dangerous. Both of our doubles teams faced 3-6 losses. In a six game deficit, we needed our singles players to step up, and they did just that. Renee Walton, dominated her opponent, winning 6-3. Brian Bliss, once again, got the nod to play singles; however, despite playing some amazing tennis was not able to get it done on the big points. Down 2-5, Tokunosuke was substituted in, and the match become very interesting. Tokunosuke saved 4 match points in his effort to level the match at 5-5 against a hard-hitting UCI-B player. Tokunosuke went on to lose the tiebreak, but his huge comeback, put us only 4 games behind, going into the mixed doubles match. Ariel and Anurag, represented the team in mixed and played a very close match, filled with big serves, crazy volleys, and a lot of “Come ons!” The match went down to a sudden death point in the tiebreak. Unfortunately, like the trend of the day, it did not go our way, and the match was lost 22-27.
Despite the tough draw that the C-Team had to face on day one, individually they performed well. Newcomer Ben Cauffman and veteran Michael Nacinopa lost a close match to UCLA-B’s men’s doubles 4-6, a strong showing considering it was their first tournament match of the year. Bruce Fanz made his debut match as well in singles, playing tough opponents in just about every round. The men’s doubles team steamrolled CSU Northridge’s doubles team 6-2, but the pairing of Srivaths Kalyan and Ben Cauffman lost to UCSB-A’s doubles team in a close tiebreaker the following round. Afterwads, Michael Nacinopa and Celyne Moh played the mixed set against UCSB-A and narrowly lost to them in a tiebreaker. On the women’s side, the combination of Rachel Storer, Celyne Moh, and Hannah Folk fought hard against the other teams but fell short. Hannah Folk played into singles most matches while Rachel and Celyne played the doubles, with Celyne playing mixed the majority of the tournament.
The second day went smoother now that the stronger teams had moved on out of the group. The first round was up against CSU Fullerton. Ben and Michael went into doubles and narrowly lost 3-6 despite being up a break, while Celyne and Rachel took the extremely close set 6-4. The following match against UC Riverside was a lot tougher, facing off against the one seed in silver bracket. The doubles teams of Ben and Srivaths, Celyne and Rachel, fell to their opponents in long matches. However, in the singles department, Bruce absolutely dominated his opponent when he failed to realize Bruce was left-handed, forcing a substitution that was far too late to salvage the match.
Overall, among the three teams all faced very different experiences from the tournament. A-Team won the tournament, B-Team placed high into gold draw for the first time, but experienced defeat against very strong teams, and C-Team was so close to experience their first taste at victory. Through our mixed experience, we can say that we are all equally anticipating Arizona Spring Invitational where we hope to bring home a nationals bid for next year.