En route to an undefeated start, the UCLA men’s tennis team knew that they were good but remained for the most part untested.
That changed this past weekend at the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships. The No. 6 Bruins surrendered their first loss of the year but learned something encouraging: The young team can play with pretty much anybody.
The Bruins lost in the quarterfinals to No. 3 Tennessee after defeating No. 12 Louisville handily in the first round behind strong performances from all of its players, especially freshman Adrien Puget and senior Holden Seguso. On its final day of competition, UCLA downed the No. 10 Florida Gators 4-3 in a consolation match.
The Bruins gave a valiant effort against a top-level Tennessee team in a tough 4-1 loss.
With all the firepower that Tennessee possessed ““ including the No. 1 player in the country in Rhyne Williams ““ UCLA kept the match much closer than the overall score showed.
“Going into that match, we knew we hadn’t played anyone that good,” freshman Clay Thompson said.
“But it was as good an experience as it could have been. We knew we were right there with the best of the best.”
Coach Billy Martin was rather pleased at the loss instead of discouraged.
“They are just as good a team as there is in college tennis,” Martin said.
“But we competed well and learned a lot from that match.”
The Bruins won the doubles point against Florida behind quality victories at the No. 1 and No. 3 positions. In singles, Puget capped off his stellar week by winning his third singles match of the tournament in impressive fashion.
The Bruins needed two more points in singles and were facing a deep Florida lineup. Freshman Daniel Kosakowski notched his best win of the year with an impressive 6-3, 6-4 victory over the No. 9 player in the country, Alexandre Lacroix. This win was followed by a match-clinching victory from Thompson, who has made a habit of closing out matches for the Bruins in exciting fashion.
“Today all the freshmen really stepped up, especially Daniel,” Thompson said.
“He beat a top-10 player in the country. To just know that our No. 1 can compete with the other top teams’ No. 1 is an awesome feeling.”
The Bruins will need to carry this momentum into their next few matches as they return to action on Friday against Stanford and then face tough tests against Cal and USC.
“We are getting stronger and becoming closer as a team and finding the belief that we can compete with the top teams in the country,” Kosakowski said. “This just gives us more confidence as the season progresses.”