‘Probably my greatest strength is my heart,’ said senior Zoran Korac. Korac and the rest of the UC Irvine Men’s Tennis team showed tremendous heart until injuries plagued what would have been an upset victory for the Anteaters on Feb. 28 at the Anteater Tennis Stadium. But the day ended with 66th-ranked UC Santa Barbara just beating out UCI for a 4-3 win.
In a best of seven matches, UCI and UCSB were tied 3-3 with the final game being the fourth-ranked singles match-up between UCI’s Ryusuke Kashiwabara and UCSB’s freshman star Elad Stern. With all the other matches completed, a large crowd drew around what would be the deciding match. But with the third and final set tied at 4-4, tragedy struck the Anteaters as Kashiwabara was unable to complete the match due to severe cramping.
The Anteaters started off strong in the first-ranked doubles match, with the UCI duo of Brian Morton and Ryusuke Kashiwabara ousting UCSB’s top team of Alex Anselme and Mike Placek 8-6. The match was a deadlock for the first 10 games, each side holding their serve without much trouble. In the 11th match, UCI began to take control. Morton and Kashiwabara broke UCSB’s serve in four straight points and never looked back.
By winning two of the three doubles matches, UCI was awarded a valuable extra point going into the singles matches.
Senior Zoran Korac had a huge win for the Anteaters in the second-ranked singles match against UCSB’s Mike Placek. After winning the first set in a tiebreaker, Korac fell 1-6 in the second set. He did not let this get to his head as he came back to win the third set and ultimately the match in yet another thrilling tiebreaker.
‘I had match point against me at one point, but I’m on a four-match winning streak so I was still confident,’ Korac said.
Junior Raymond Hekmat feels the team can get past this unfortunate loss.
‘We definitely still have a shot at winning conference and then we will get our opportunity for payback,’ Hekmat said.