UC San Diego Falls Short at Sectionals, but the Future is Bright
It is the most anticipated tournament of the year, Southern California Sectionals. We sent two teams to Clairemont Mckenna in hopes to take home a nationals bid by placing in the top 5. On the first day of the tournament, UC San Diego-A hoped to win all three matches in a tough pool to place into the gold bracket. In the first match, UC San Diego-A defeated Pepperdine-A, 28-18. We thought we had the pool in the bag after beating Pepperdine-A. We were sorely mistaken as Cal-Poly B ended up being our roughest match. We played hard and won 25-24 in super-tiebreaker as Senior Amy Lin and Sophomore Alexander Loh bring home the win. In the last match of the first day, we overwhelmed CSUN-B, 30-1.
In gold bracket, we placed 7th in winning percentage, having to a face the strong 2nd seed UCSB-A. Captain Kyle Vo and Sophomore Ryan Lee undefeated for the tournament thus far, won in a sudden death point finish 6-5(5-4). With that near victory, the score was tied going into singles. Freshmen Smita Sabada overwhelmed her opponent winning 6-2 pushing the team to a 1 game lead going into the last match. In mixed, Seniors Kyle Vo and Amy Lin suffered a very close loss 4-6, losing the match and the nationals bid. After the crushingly close defeat, the newly inspired team beat UCI to go into the 5th place match for one last chance to make nationals. As if writing a drama, it was a battle of San Diego as we were set to play SDSU-A for the last spot at nationals. In this season alone, the opposing school has beaten us twice out of two meetups. It started with a close 6-4 victory in still undefeated pairing, Ryan Lee and Kyle Vo. Alexander Loh stepped in against a very tough opponent and lost in a close 3-6. Down four games going into mixed, it was a huge uphill battle to reach nationals. Pairing Ryan Lee and Amy Lin won in a strong 6-3 fashion, putting UC San Diego down 1 game to go into supertiebreaker. After breaking the next game, it all came down to one last tiebreaker to see who would represent SOCAL at nationals. We quickly went down 0-5 going to 7, in the tiebreaker. After winning the next point, our team expected a huge comeback, but in the end, we came short. Never has our team felt so together than in that moment after the lost. We will use all our efforts to receive a bid for next year’s nationals by placing in Spring Invitational.
For UC San Diego-B, the weekend opened up with an early match-up between the group favorites: UC San Diego -B and SDSU-A. A yearlong rivalry between the newcomer-filled UC San Diego team and the revamped SDSU team made its fourth appearance on Saturday morning bright and early. The men’s doubles of Allen Gao and Justin Yang went neck and neck against the Aztecs team, trading breaks only once throughout the set. Just like the previous meetings this year, the match went into a tiebreaker at 5 games apiece. It all came down to the sudden death point at 4-4 in the tiebreaker, only to end with an underhand serve to clinch the match and take the set 6-5 in UC San Diego’s favor. On the girl’s end, Celyne Moh and Hannah Folk battled it out with the veteran pair from the Aztecs women’s side. Many breaks were traded between the team, but a final hold from SDSU brought the girls to a loss at 4-6. Despite the loss, the UC San Diego girls fought hard and kept the match only at a one game difference. Mikaela McNally went in for singles and dominated her opponent early on, leading up at 5-2. But her opponent did not falter and climbed her way back into the set, taking it back to a tiebreaker. Mikaela prevailed in the end, winning the set. Despite being down a decent number of games going into mixed, Tim Harris started off his tournament career for UC San Diego guns blazing in the mixed set, partnered with Josephine Kozlowski. With a pair of quick hands and seemingly unstoppable reach, Tim and Josephine took the set 6-4 in deciding fashion. Although the crowd cheered valiantly for UC San Diego, the team eventually fell in overtime with a narrow 23-27 loss.
The other two matches were decisive victories for the B-team. While the A-team played Pepperdine-A, the B-team played Pepperdine-B alongside them. The result: a victory over them only dropping the women’s doubles set but claiming the rest handily. The following match after between the B-team and Cal Poly Pomona was more one-sided, dropping only 5 games total. Going into Sunday, the team had a tough draw ahead of them in the silver bracket but had their hopes high. Their first match-up was against SDSU’s B-team. Each of the matches were close in score, leaving only a small lead going into mixed doubles. Despite the team dropping the men’s singles in a hard fought battle, the mixed doubles team of Tim and Josephine had no need for overtime when they easily swept the mixed set 6-2.
The following match against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s B-team was a different story altogether. The men’s doubles pulled together an enormous victory over the opposing duo, winning 6-3 with tensions high during and after the match. The women’s doubles team of Mikaela and Celyne fought hard, but ultimately fell to their opponents. Chris went into singles and despite his loss, managed to score a few games and keep the team in contention. Despite the numerous disadvantage going into the mixed set, Tim and Josephine once again dominated their opponents handily. Unfortunately for the team, Cal Poly SLO took the match in overtime and sent the B-team packing their bags.
The results of the weekend were not so much the focus for the team. Despite the loss to the eventual silver bracket winners, the team did well and fought hard to represent UC San Diego at regionals this year next to the A-team. Each win was a deciding victory over the other team, while each loss was only a few games from turning it into a win. With the Spring Invitational set in their sights, the B-team is definitely on course to be the next dominant silver bracket team alongside the likes of Cal Poly and UCLA.