With his team set to head to the ITA Division I National Men’s Team Indoor Championship Tuesday, coach Billy Martin used a pair of home matches this weekend to keep his squad prepared from top to bottom.
In Sunday’s match against St. Mary’s, Martin rested sophomore Mackenzie McDonald and senior Dennis Mkrtchian, who have thus far played No. 1 and No. 2 for the Bruins (5-2), in the singles portion. The adjustment forced freshman Martin Redlicki to play No. 1 and gave freshman Austin Rapp and redshirt junior Ryoto Tachi a chance to play on the last two singles courts.
They all took advantage of their increased roles, each picking up two-set victories as the No. 10 Bruins routed the Gaels (1-5) 7-0 for their second win of the weekend, along with the previous day’s 4-0 blanking of San Diego State (3-3).
“I really liked getting Austin back out for singles and getting Ryoto a match,” Martin said. “We want to keep having Ryoto feel like part of the singles lineup because he’ll end up filling in for us, whether we have some injuries or sickness.”
Tachi, playing singles for the second time this season, rolled over the Gaels’ Nash Vollenweider 6-2, 6-4, with Rapp winning by the same score on the next court against James Markiewicz. Meanwhile, on the front court, Redlicki was getting his first taste of the No. 1 spot.
“He admitted he was a little nervous,” Martin said. “It’s always a fun court to play on. To play No. 1 singles for UCLA, I hope is something special. So I always like to get that first initial shock out of the way and maybe not on a super tough match so that they’re having to deal with that as well as a tough opponent.”
After struggling slightly on the way to a 7-5 win in the first set, Redlicki took control in the second set with a dominant serve, overpowering St. Mary’s Arthur Weber to win 7-5, 6-2. Martin said he was glad to see Redlicki unleash a more powerful version of his serve after dealing with an abdominal strain recently that limited the effort he could put into the serve.
“We’re going to need him to be serving like that for the (ITA Division I National Men’s Team Indoor Championship),” Martin said. “Indoors, that serve can be a real valuable asset with faster courts, faster conditions. So no better time than now for him to step up and really be serving well.”
Martin was also encouraged by the play at No. 2 singles of sophomore Gage Brymer, who was playing his fourth match since missing a few weeks after the death of his mother.
“There’s no one on our team that thrives on hitting thousands and thousands of balls as much as Gage, he’s always had just an incredible work ethic,” Martin said. “So for him to miss time is tough on him but now he can get back in that environment and get back to working as hard as he does.”
Brymer said he felt much better than he did last week against Georgia and Florida.
“I felt like I’ve been coming back,” Brymer said. “It was a good match for me to come back and feel my rhythm a little. To be honest, I think I have a lot of room to improve still and get back to where I want to be.”
Junior co-captain Karue Sell said seeing guys step up and show improvement with their games this weekend was an important development as the team heads to the ITA Division I National Men’s Team Indoor Championship.
“It (is) good to head to Chicago with back-to-back wins and go to Chicago with a little confidence,” Sell said.