When sophomore Victor Lamm makes a great play, you do one of two things. If you’re in the audience, you cheer; if you’re the opposition, you leave the country on the next flight out of sheer frustration.
On Saturday’s Men’s Tennis match, Lamm, playing an excellent game from the baseline, executed pinpoint shots that brought his opponent down four times as he attempted to forestall Lamm’s 6-0, 6-2 victory. The singles win was one of five for the Anteaters as they beat Cal Poly 5-2, managing to come back from a 1-0 deficit after losing the opening doubles point.
Lamm, taking advantage of his opponent Matt Baca’s weak backhand, threw wide shots that forced him to return weakly in kind. This allowed Lamm to gain control over the match so that while Lamm played moderately, Baca had to push himself to exhaustion just to keep up.
‘I’m already thinking this is the best match I’ve played this season,’ Lamm said. For Lamm it was one of those days when ‘you feel like nothing can happen to you.’
Not that Lamm suffered from any degree of overconfidence. ‘Frenchy,’ as his teammates call him, pushed himself in a way one might expect had the scores been reversed.
UC Irvine Head Coach Steve Clark expressed a sense of admiration for Lamm’s performance, but at the same time stressed the importance of a good full-court game and a strong presence at the net, which baseline-focused players such as Lamm are not as proficient at. He pointed to junior Mustafa Ulukan as a full-court player.
Ulukan, on his singles match, played an awesome three-set series despite tendonitis in his legs and a pulled back muscle halfway into the second set. During the first set (6-3) of the game, Ulukan did not move the racket; the racket moved him.
‘He struggles because almost every player he plays is ranked,’ Clark stated.
Ulukan’s face was red with pain as a trainer massaged his back, but he still had his opponent John Nguyen gasping and out of breath as he sprinted across the court to press his advantage.
He was ultimately run down 6-3, 2-6, 1-6 by Nguyen’s strong serves and returns. Clark felt that Nguyen won the match because he played a more consistent, tight game.
‘You could be technically not all that good, but if you shoot the right shot at the right time, you’re fine,’ Clark said.
‘The difference between the first set and the rest of the game is that I held my serves on the first one,’ Ulukan said.
Freshman Trevor Dobson teamed up with Ulukan for the doubles match. The two complemented each other well, the one with his manic pace and the other with his slow, deliberate serves.
‘He usually complements my serves. He’s got strong returns,’ Dobson said. He pinned the 8-6 doubles defeat on off-shots, despite his long strings of powerful serves.
Junior Aaron Ellis and teammate sophomore Andrei Radulescu attributed their doubles loss to a lack of punch toward the end-game.
‘Bottom line we let up a little bit and we paid for it,’ Radulescu stated.
‘He had him on a string,’ Clark said of the strong at-the-net game of one of the Cal Poly player.
Regardless, both won solid victories over their opponents, 7-6, 6-4 and 6-3, 2-6, 6-1, respectively.
Ellis’ opponent played an aggressive game that forced Ellis to ‘pity-pat’ the ball during the beginning of the game; he needed to tough the victory out.
‘I was down love-30 [in the second set] and I just came out with some really good shots,’ Ellis said. ‘And I started returning better … and that made the difference.’ Ellis maneuvered himself around the ball and played a strong full-court game to produce his victory.
The Anteaters will host Boston College on March 6.