As the rain swept in early Friday morning, it didn’t look as though the UC Irvine Men’s Tennis team (8-8, 1-1) would be doing much of anything besides trying to stay dry. The 27th annual Anteater Classic began the day before with a 5-2 win against the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an uphill battle. The men’s team was ready to face the University of Alabama-Birmingham, if it would just stop raining.
By 10 a.m. the match, which had originally been scheduled to begin at this time, didn’t look as if it was going to happen. Not one player had arrived at the tennis courts at the Anteater Athletics Complex, despite the rain having ceased. By 11:30 a.m. the doubles matches finally began, after brief warm-ups by both teams.
In the No. 1 position, freshman Trevor Dobson and junior Mustafa Ulukan played hard, and argued even harder, against the balls that UAB’s Anton Mavrin and Johannes Spangenberg served them. Despite the visible and verbal frustration that UAB’s Mavrin displayed at numerous out-of-bounds calls by Ulukan, in the end the Anteater duo lost 8-5 on court one.
The second position was just as heated as junior Aaron Ellis tried his best to rally his doubles partner, sophomore Andrei Radulescu. Ellis, who was clearly the team’s most outwardly hyped player, and Radulescu ‘were up 7-6 with a break,’ according to fellow team member, sophomore Victor Lamm. ‘But they had a hard time on big points, so losing the doubles point was a disappointment.’
The pair eventually lost 9-7.
The third time was truly the charm as junior Alex Sundling and Lamm worked their magic against UAB’s Kruno Despotovski and Kristijan Mitrovski in the No. 3 position. As it seemed that UAB was going to take the doubles point without much resistance from UCI, Sundling and Lamm pulled off the only win of the day for UCI with a 9-7 victory.
‘Alex and I played tough near the end,’ Lamm said. ‘We made our opponents hit a lot of balls at the net and we tried to put on as much pressure as we could and in the end it paid off.’
UCI Head Coach Steve Clark thought the team should have performed much better than they did. ‘I was very disappointed in how, in general, they competed, especially in light of how gutsy they were the day before,’ he said. ‘We were serving for the doubles point which would carry the momentum into the singles. It is one thing to lose serve, which happens, but another to actually give your opponent points because of things we work on so hard in practice daily to improve on.’
The singles matches began in a brighter light, so it seemed, as the rain clouds cleared and the sun began to shine down on UCI. However, according to Lamm, ‘In singles we felt like there was a lack of energy, probably due to the big fight we had the previous day to beat the UALR.’
The single’s matches proved to have the expected doses of individual style and spirit in each of the six positions. At the No. 1 position, Lamm’s exuberant playing would be UCI’s closest singles match of the day, although he still came up short to UAB’s Mavin (5-7, 7-6, 10-4).
Meanwhile, on court five, the more mild-mannered Sundling was putting up an equally good fight against Johannes Spangenberg. However, UAB would eventually take another victory in the warmth of the early afternoon (6-4, 7-6).
The morning that started out dark and wet turned into yet another beautiful spring afternoon and the UCI Men’s Tennis Team, who hadn’t been energized into a win, still saw the light peeking through the clouds.
‘Even though UAB is a good team, I really think that we could beat them on a good day,’ Lamm said. ‘This is the reason why we have to think about this match in order to step it up and be ready for the conference championship that is coming soon.’
Despite losing 7-0, Clark thought the team should have won the match. ‘UAB didn’t win it. We gave it to them and their coach knew it. And he and I talked about it because he knows how well I coach my guys,’ he said.