The undefeated Bruins are riding a rather unexpected wave of success early on.
After qualifying for the USTA/ITA National Indoors last weekend, the UCLA men’s tennis team will face off against local rival UC Irvine today.
This year’s Anteater team is not the same team that was swept by the Bruins (7-0) two years in a row. UC Irvine has added Chris Kearney, a junior transfer from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the No. 33 player in the country according to the ITA. On Thursday, he will match up against UCLA’s rising young leader ““ Daniel Kosakowski.
The talented freshman will have to compete at a very high level to get the better of Kearney.
“Kearney has a good serve and likes to compete up front, so Daniel will have to be ready for the attack,” coach Billy Martin said. “Daniel’s used to guys staying in the back court so I’m trying to get him in the mind frame of having an opponent come up to the net.”
As he prepares to battle, Kosakowski also spoke highly of the Anteaters’ star player.
“I’ve never played (Kearney), but I’ve heard great things about him,” Kosakowski said. “I’m just going to have to stick to my game, and hopefully I can come out on top.”
For senior Amit Inbar, Kearney’s name brings back less-than-fond memories. As a freshman at the University of Maryland, Inbar lost to Kearney in doubles play back in 2008 in a match against UNC.
“He’s a good player, ” Inbar said of Kearney.
“But one good player is not enough to beat UCLA.”
Despite the intimidation Kearney brings, the Bruins remain self-assured about their chances in today’s match.
“We give a lot of respect to Irvine, but we’re coming out with great confidence against them,” Inbar said.
Martin has kept a grounded attitude about the team’s success so far this season. Just a few weeks ago, Martin warned his team about the difficulties of the season ahead.
“It’s given us a bit of belief,” Martin said of his team’s unbeaten record.
“Right now (Martin’s) just happy about how we’re competing on the court,” Kosakowski added. “He still wants us to stay hungry.”
Given their upcoming schedule, the Bruins must keep the intensity up if they want to maintain success. UCLA has its first away-match of the season in Waco, Tex. on Sunday against Baylor before heading to Seattle for the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships.
Upon their return, the Bruins’ resiliency will be tested yet again when, less than a week after the tournament, they get their first taste of Pac-10 conference rivalry in consecutive matches against Stanford, Cal and USC.
The difficulty of their upcoming schedule is what keeps the Bruins from getting overconfident.
“Although we’ve won the last few matches, anything can happen,” Inbar said. “We know it’s not going to be easy and nothing is a guarantee.”