After three hours of play on Saturday, April 8, the UC Irvine Men’s Tennis team found themselves standing side by side with their opponents, the Highlanders of UC Riverside, watching the last members of their teams in a tiebreaking duel that would end the game. After a back-and-forth 13- 11 match, junior Mustafa Ulukan clinched the victory for UCI and left Anteater Tennis Stadium with the 5-2 win.
Ulukan was on his way to grabbing the victory in his singles match after taking the first set from Riverside sophomore Joe Cartledge. However, Cartledge fought back in the second set and managed to break the UCI lead. Ulukan could not make his defense hold and gave up one too many allowing the second match to slip to UCR at 7-6.
By this time, the other five singles matches had concluded, leaving only Ulukan and Cartledge on the court. With both teams cheering on their respective players, the two began a 10-point tiebreaking match to end the day’s play. However, 10 points were not sufficient for either player as they both fought until Ulukan captured the last point, ending the tiebreaker at 13-11.
‘I had a lot to lose today,’ Ulukan said. ‘I kept missing and it’s hard to keep playing with that mentality. There’s obvious pressure and it’s progressive. I could have played more aggressive.’
‘It was hard for me to watch,’ said UCI Head Coach Steve Clark. ‘He had some problems and that was ugly, but he still won.’
Though it was Ulukan who ended play for the day, it was junior Aaron Ellis’ victory over UCR senior Norman Tam that captured the winning point for the Anteaters. Ellis and Tam faced each other in the No. 2 spot, and after a few long rallies in two sets, the match finally ended in UCI’s favor at 7-6, 7-5.
Battling in the No. 1 spot was Irvine sophomore Victor Lamm and Riverside (8-10, 1-2) junior Mark Contreras. Lamm’s victory was also accomplished in two sets, netting UCI (10-9, 2-1) another point toward their total of five. He ended the day with victories of 6-4 and 6-2.
‘I’ve been sick since Wednesday, so I didn’t have too much energy,’ Lamm said. ‘I move around a lot but was always late on the ball.’
Four of the six singles match points went to UCI, which included sophomore Alex Sundling’s 6-0, 6- 3 defeat of Riverside’s Christian Frick. The doubles point went to UCI thanks to Ulukan and freshman Trevor Dobson’s 8-4 victory as well as Lamm and Sundling’s 8-1 victory.
‘The team plays well,’ Lamm said. ‘We’re all fighting. I think we’ll do well in conference.’ UCI finished Saturday’s match with a victory despite the numerous players who have suffered injuries throughout the season.
‘We’re banged up bad but we still won,’ Clark said. ‘We fought hard.’
The Anteaters will wrap up their regular season at Anteater Tennis Stadium next Saturday when they host UC Santa Barbara.