UCSD Qualifies for Tennis on Campus National Championships!
Sectionals weekend is always the big one. It's the weekend all the players are excited for and are ready to compete against the other teams from the Southern California region. The added anticipation is for the big reward that potentially awaits - a spot at the National Championships in Orlando, Florida. Entering the weekend, UCSD was given 3 teams to compete, and so we had 30 players in action throughout the weekend and were provided with some exhilarating tennis.
Our A team started off Saturday's round-robin matches against our next-door neighbors, USD B. Men’s doubles pairing of Ryo Kojima and Abhishek Nisha Anish led the way with a commanding 6-0 win and it was the start of a blistering run for our team as they won all 5 matches to secure the first win of the weekend. Singles player Ethan Liu overcame a spirited opponent to notch a confidence-boosting win as well.
The momentum carried forward to the second match against CSU Long Beach B, who put out a strong team. But our players were up for the challenge and rallied to win 4 of the 5 sets to take the tie. Second singles player Raj Tantuwaya put in a consistent display to win.
Our third and final match of the round-robin was UCLA C, they were a strong opponent and we anticipated it to be a close matchup. Indeed, our Women’s Doubles pairing of Serena Ko and Tiffany Huynh fought back in an enthralling set to win on a tiebreak. The tie went into overtime but our mixed pair of Jamie Wei and Alyson Hirota ended any chance of an upset by clinching the all-important final set in a high-quality display.
And so A team headed into the Gold Bracket on Sunday, with the goal of winning the first quarterfinal matchup against a familiar, and much-improved foe, in Pepperdine. The two doubles sets were evenly split, but with the singles ties, the team was able to take a much-needed lead. Ally Chen, always composed and efficient, put on a masterclass to win her singles set 6-1. Jamie Wei started the singles set and put in a determined and dogged display to win 6-3 in a pulsating encounter. It came down to the mixed set, and we lost the set to a strong mixed pairing. And so we went to overtime. Everyone, spectators included, were on the edges of their seat. Up stepped Ally Chen, who was substituted in during overtime, to serve out her service game to love! and put an end to any nerves. The jubilation and relief were there to be seen by all, as UCSD clinched a spot at the National Championships!
In the next semi-final match, we played against tournament favorites UCLA but went down to the stronger opposition. With the weekend coming to an end and the many matches starting to take their toll, we played USC in the playoff for third and fourth. Unfortunately, we ended the tie with a narrow defeat, but all players only had one thing on their minds. And that was Nationals in April!
On Saturday, February 19, 2022, UCSD’s B Team (Chris Lee, Vincent You, Daniela Gama, Aubrie Weissbuch, Jonathan Figueira, Karthik Guruvayurappan, Sahil Iyer, Kendall Daviduk, Vivian Lee, Sisi Leong) faced off against the Claremont Colleges’ B Team as their first opponent at the Barnes Tennis Center at 10 am. Starting off the day with a strong performance in men’s doubles and women’s doubles, Guruvayurappan and Iyer bageled their opponents while Lee and Leong secured a 6-4 win. The proceeding singles matches with You and Gama representing men’s singles and women’s singles respectively resulted in a close 3-6 loss for You and a confident 6-1 win for Gama. With a 10-game lead heading into mixed doubles, Figueira and Daviduk started off a bit tight but secured the set in a tiebreaker to win UCSD B Team’s first match of the day. With only a short break after their first match, UCSD B Team rested up quickly and headed on to face their second opponents of the day, UC Santa Barbara’s A-Team. UCSB’s A-Team proved to be difficult opponents, as Guruvayurappan and Iyer in doubles and Lee in singles both lost 1-6. On the women’s side, however, Daviduk and Lee were able to win 6-2 in their doubles set while Weissbuch was able to get 4 games off of her opponent, leaving UCSD down by 8 games when entering mixed doubles. As Figueira and Leong faced off against their opponents in a neck and neck set, they eventually found themselves in a tiebreaker, opening a chance to head into overtime to clutch the win for the team. However, despite their best efforts, Figueira and Leong barely lost in the tiebreaker, and UCSB’s A-Team took the victory for their team. In the last match of the day, UCSD’s B Team defeated CSULB’s A-Team to end the day 2-1.
On the next day, the elimination bracket started and UCSD’s B Team was facing a difficult opponent (UCLA-C) right off the bat. After tight matches from Guruvayurappan and Iyer in men’s doubles, Daviduk and Leong in women’s doubles, Lee in men’s singles, and Weissbuch in women’s singles, UCSD B Team was up by 5 games when heading into mixed doubles, but suffered a 2-6 loss. This led to a one-game overtime, which UCLA C was able to win, resulting in a super tiebreaker. For each and every single point of the super tiebreaker, the audience was on the edge of their seats, especially when it came down to the sudden death point at 6-6. As the point started and the rally continued on and on, everyone held their breath until UCLA won the final point and UCSD was unable to bring back the win. After this unfortunate loss against UCLA, UCSD B Team proceeded into the consolation bracket against USC-C, but this time with a little mix-up. In this match, Figueira and You played in men’s doubles in a close 5-6 match, while Weissbuch and Daviduk played in women’s doubles. In singles, Guruvayurappan had some beautiful points against his opponent that kept the audience captivated, while Gama and her consistent and heavy strokes won her match. With a slight disadvantage going into mixed doubles, Iyer and Leong won their mixed match and headed into overtime. They were so close to coming back but were ultimately unable to make up the game difference, ending a long, but exciting weekend for UCSD’s B Team at Sectionals.
For C team, the tournament began with some tough matches against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo-B, Pepperdine University-B, and USC-A. Despite being a C team, they were still a force to be reckoned with. In the second-round match against Cal Poly-SLO, Matthew Powley was a wall as he ran down every ball hit on his side of the court. His singles opponent appeared visibly frustrated at Matthew’s tenacity. In the third round against USC-A, the Tritons dug deep once again. First up, women’s doubles players Julie Nguyen and Bre Ford put on a show with their strategic plays and refusal to give up ground at the net. Additionally, singles player Sebastian Smith shocked USC-A with his 110mph serve (which was awarded the fastest serve of the weekend) and aggressive playing style. If this hadn’t inspired enough stress for the fans sitting on the edge of their seats, mixed doubles players Lizzy Van Ert and Josh Tesoro certainly escalated the energy, anticipation, and excitement of the crowd. Playing on center court, the pair battled against USC-A for over an hour – at one point gaining a sizeable lead over their opponents. In the end, USC-A came out on top, but C team had generated a tidal wave of momentum (and rumors that their team was as good as a normal A or B team) to carry them into day 2 of the tournament.
On day 2, C team found themselves fighting for a case of tennis balls in the copper bracket of the tournament. The first match against UC Riverside-B resulted in a sizeable win for the C team- proving that once again they were a team to look out for. In the semifinals, the Tritons found themselves up against CSU Fullerton. During this crucial match, doubles player Mandy Lai took the opportunity to show off her aggressive volleys and court awareness – hitting several volley winners and helping to clutch the abbreviated set with a score of 4-0. In the end, the Tritons racked up another win and went straight into the finals against University of San Diego. In their final match, men’s doubles players Nakul Nandhakumar and Nick Moy dug in to play one of their best matches of the weekend. The whole team watched as they aced their serves, played aggressively at the net, and constructed points that left the other team aghast. Additionally, women’s singles player Yasmin Abu-Jaber left her teammates awestruck with her down-the-line winners and refusal to give up points (much to her opponent’s disappointment). The excitement in the air was palpable as A and B teams joined in to cheer on C team in the finals – all the players desiring a case of new practice balls. Unfortunately, while C team lost in overtime, they were able to take home a case of brand-new tennis balls after helping to clean up the tennis courts after the tournament was over.