The UC Irvine Men’s Tennis team fell in the semifinals of the Big West Tournament Saturday at Indian Wells to the University of Pacific by a score of 4-0.
The sweeping victory, although disappointing, wasn’t too much of a surprise as UCI had already lost once to Pacific 5-2 earlier in the season.
The doubles team of Aaron Ellis and Andrei Radulescu were the only Anteaters to win, 8-2, but the point was taken by Pacific’s two winning doubles teams-victorious by scores of 8-3 and 8-6. Pacific also won the first three singles matches as Vladimir Zdravkovic beat the Anteaters’ Mustafa Ulukan (6-2, 1-6, 2-6), Allan Kelly took care of Shimpei Suzuki (4-6, 5-7) and Tim Koniarski came back to down Radulescu (6-3, 1-6, 0-6). Ulukan and Radulescu dominated their respective matches early, but tough competition sent them into a third set where they both lost.
UCI entered the tournament as the third seed, earning a first-round bye with a 10-10 overall record. They finished 2-2 in conference play. They were the Big West champions last year and hold the most conference titles of any Big West school with 12.
The warm springtime desert temperatures made the Anteaters sweat in the afternoon match, but it was the Tigers’ attack that turned up the heat.
‘I was on today,’ Radulescu said. ‘I played really well. I want to get in the guy’s head, especially after winning a point, but it started toward the end of the first set. I don’t know if it’s the heat or what. I’m disappointed. I don’t know what else to say.’
Radulescu was in command of the match after winning the first set, but the rest of the match went Pacific’s way, as Radulescu became more and more vocal with himself, and sometimes the official.
‘It was close,’ said sophomore Victor Lamm after his match was stopped because of the Pacific victory. ‘I was playing well until about 4-3. Then I started losing confidence. I lost two returns, and two volleys. My opponent was very sound and made me work for every point.’
‘I’m surprised,’ said Head Coach Steve Clark after the defeat. ‘I thought we would play better, but we gave them the doubles. When we give them double faults, it’s a gift. I thought we would get the singles for sure. Way too many unforced errors. They fought hard, but at the end, I was like, what happened?’
The team plans on taking a little time off before practicing again, and most players will play individually over the summer to stay in shape. Pacific advanced to play UC Santa Barbara in the conference championship.