The No. 4-seeded UCLA men’s tennis team opens Sweet 16 play Friday in Athens, Ga.
Assistant coach Krzysztof Kwinta is eager to see how the Bruins’ freshmen respond to the opportunity.
“For these guys, the freshmen, they don’t know what it is. They will find out, hopefully not the hard way,” Kwinta said.
Kwinta was a member of UCLA’s national championship team in 2005. He was one of four seniors who led the Bruins to the title that year.
“You know what was great about the ’05 team was not only having the four seniors, but the loss in ’04,” he said.
“That made us realize how much we wanted to win, and made us motivated for that ultimate goal from day one.”
The sting from last year’s loss in the round of 16 against Baylor wasn’t felt by almost half of the players in UCLA’s lineup. However, Kwinta hopes that a combination of zealous young players and a veteran such as redshirt senior Nick Meister will propel the Bruins.
“On one hand, you have Nick, who is absolutely a veteran and has dreamt about winning it for so long, and these (freshmen) are going into the unknown, not knowing what to expect.
“That could be a lethal mixture, and hopefully, we will surprise other teams in the college world.”
Coach Billy Martin realizes the importance the freshmen will play in the Bruins’ march for the final, especially Marcos Giron and Dennis Novikov, who occupy the center spots in UCLA’s singles line-up. When asked about the most pivotal spots in the lineup, he said:
“Certainly spots three and four if I had to put my finger on it.” Giron and Novikov hold those two spots.
After losing two of his last three matches, Novikov appreciated the opportunity to hone his game during regionals before heading to Georgia.
“The (regionals) gives us a good separation. I think it’s a good warm-up,” he said.
UCLA will face No. 13 Ole Miss Friday at 9 a.m.