The first dual match of the 2013 season was a 6-1 victory for UCLA, no different from last season’s opening 6-1 victory against Brigham Young University. Coming into the game, No. 3 UCLA was a heavy favorite against UCSB, and the Bruins didn’t disappoint.
However, after what coach Billy Martin said he viewed as a very impressive showing to earn the doubles point early on, the team showed signs of weakness throughout the first singles set.
Martin sat on the bench between courts as both sophomore Marcos Giron and sophomore Dennis Novikov were locked in dead heats of 3-3 and 4-4 respectively, occasionally talking with them during breaks.
“Some guys like and need a lot of talking to, and some don’t,” Martin said. “If I really feel there is something technically that I need to talk them about, or I want to make sure that they know what their opponent is doing, I’ll talk to them about it whether they like it or not.”
From the start of their match, UCSB’s No. 3 singles player Axel Bouillin was a difficult matchup for Novikov. Bouillin’s return ability and speed of play prepared him well for Novikov’s service power. After dropping the first set 5-7, Novikov began landing more of his first serves, which allowed him to attack the net more with his second and third hits and dominate the second set 6-1.
Novikov lost the match in the third set, but Martin was not at all concerned about the performance of Novikov, who has been battling the flu.
Junior Adrien Puget played a strong singles, frustrating his opponent, senior Benjamin Recknagel, with a combination of power and textbook footwork en route to a victory. Puget also played No. 2 doubles for the Bruins alongside redshirt freshman Karue Sell, who made his UCLA debut Wednesday.
“He played a good solid doubles, and he has really good potential,” Puget, the team’s captain, said of the young Sell.
Almost as though he hadn’t been out for almost four months, junior Clay Thompson stepped right back into his energetic role, leading pump-up chants with his teammates huddled around him before the match, later clinching his own match in three sets.
After struggling some in the beginning of the first set with distance control, and breaking strings on two racquets in consecutive sets, No. 12 Marcos Giron won 3 of the last 4 games in the first set, and went on to take the No. 2 singles match.
“We got our first match under our belts, and it’s good seeing Karue get his first win, and obviously Clay getting a win in his first match back since his injury in the fall is huge,” said Giron after the match.
While their matchup was not against a highly ranked opponent, the Bruins played a dominating effort on Wednesday, in preparation for their next match against Cal Poly on Friday.
“I want us to always play at a very high level no matter who we play, and I think they did a pretty good job with that today,” Martin said.
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