The 66th-ranked UC Irvine men’s tennis team lost 5-2 to Hawaii on Friday afternoon at Anteater Stadium. It now drops to a record of 8-10.
In the beginning, the Anteaters started off a bit shaky as their doubles team lost two of their three matches, allowing Hawaii to take a 1-0 lead.
In NCAA tennis, teams must win at least two out of three doubles matches to receive one full point. UCI suffered the fourth consecutive loss in its doubles matches, its last doubles-point win coming against Yale in mid-March.
“It’s no secret that our doubles performance is really suffering right now,” said sophomore doubles player Zac Tsai, who lost 8-5 to Lajola and Fitch of Hawaii in his No. 2 doubles match.
In other doubles matches, Alex Sundling and Victor Lamm of UCI lost 8-3 to Sascha Heinemann and Andreas Weber of Hawaii. UCI’s lone double win was when Trevor Dobson and Andrew Bertolina beat Craig Faulk and Spencer Mendoza of Hawaii 8-6.
Head Coach Trevor Kronemann acknowledged that his doubles team is not competing at the level it should be. The team must “be a little more territorial, and take it more personal” when playing, especially in its home court.
He attributes the team’s ineffectiveness to a lack of energy and aggressiveness. The doubles team has only won 4 of 18 games this season.
Though it lost 4-2 to Hawaii, the UCI men’s tennis singles performed well in the afternoon. Its two match wins were definitive statements that it was no pushover.
In the No. 4 singles match, UCI freshman Khunpol Issara, who is from Thailand, swept Faulk of Hawaii 6-0, 6-0. Faulk was unable to keep up with Issara’s tenacious pace, as his serves were too powerful for him to handle.
The No. 5 singles match was a bit more interesting as junior Zac Tsai of UCI dismantled Jeff Fitch of Hawaii 6-1, 6-1. Fitch was unable to find an answer to Tsai’s smooth forehand returns to his right and left corners, forcing Fitch to stay on defense the entire set, even on serve.
“I was getting a lot of return percentages, which helped me out a lot because it set up the point,” Tsai said. “Getting that first return back was very important so that I could get him moving side to side.”
In the second set, Fitch served to the right side of Tsai’s T, which is where the center line and service line intersect to form a T. With quick reflexes, Tsai returned a solid forehand deep to Fitch’s backhand corner.
Fitch countered with a feeble backhand, landing the ball near the middle of the court. Tsai displayed his power mixed with accuracy as he took two steps to the center of the court, found a firm poised position, and unloaded everything he had onto the ball sending it cross-court. Fitch had no answer.
Even with two match victories, it was not enough for the team. In the No. 1 singles match, Sundling fell 6-3, 6-1 to Lajola of Hawaii. In the No. 2 singles match, Heinemann moved past UCI’s Lamm 6-2, 6-2. Weber of Hawaii defeated Dobson 6-7, 6-3, 6-2 in the No. 3 singles match. Lastly, Stege of UCI was unable to hold off Hawaii’s Mendoza as he lost 7-5, 7-6.
The UCI men’s tennis team has six more opponents left on its schedule before the Big West Conference tournament.
Though its record does not show it, the men’s tennis team showed that it is capable of competing at a high level when it dethroned the highly-touted No. 25 Boise State and gave No. 33 Clemson a run for its rankings, only losing 4-3 in the end.
“The prospect for us is to take it one match at a time and build toward the conference tournament and find a way to win everyday,” said Kronemann.
“We’ve really done that