After celebrating a momentous victory against University of San Francisco on Wednesday, the UCLA men’s tennis team hopes its confidence and momentum will carry over into the ITA Men’s Kick-Off Weekend.
Standing in the Bruins’ way are the SMU Mustangs, who coach Billy Martin says represent stiff competition early in the dual match season.
“I think we have an extremely tough match on Saturday against SMU,” Martin said. “They might not be highly ranked, but I got to see them play (in the Jack Kramer Classic) in Palos Verdes. They brought in three really good players, and they’re gonna be a really strong team.”
UCLA is one of 15 host sites around the nation for ITA Kick-Off Weekend, with each site essentially serving as a preliminary bracket to determine the 16-team main draw for the ITA Division I National Men’s Team Indoor Championship in February at the University of Virginia. In order to qualify for the championship, UCLA must win against SMU Saturday and again against either Georgia Tech or New Mexico Sunday. Last year, UCLA qualified by defeating Pepperdine and Texas Tech by scores of 5-0 and 4-1, respectively.
Martin said he wants to see his team get off to a quick start in doubles.
“Against good teams, getting the doubles point is so crucial,” Martin said. “If we don’t, we gotta be resilient and fight for every point. Every match is gonna be a real dogfight. We can’t get discouraged if we lose the doubles point, and we can’t be too elated if we get the doubles point. We have to stay even-keeled.”
Martin also said he expects junior Mackie McDonald, a two-time All-American and the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year, to make his first dual-match appearance of the year Saturday. McDonald sat out Wednesday’s match against USF to rest minor injuries, but he will likely return to the No. 1 singles slot and the No. 1 doubles slot with partner sophomore Martin Redlicki against SMU.
Fortunately, the relatively quick 7-0 dismantling of USF gave other players an opportunity to regain their rhythm and shake off any season-opening nerves.
“For me this match, (the goal) was to get my groove back and get ready for this weekend,” said sophomore Logan Staggs, who won in his first dual match with UCLA since transferring from Northwestern. “It’s a pretty big weekend for us. (I was just) trying to get a match under my belt.”
Redlicki dominated at the No. 1 singles slot against USF, but says there is still room for tactical improvement in his game heading into the weekend.
“Playing the right way is a bigger focus than worrying about how I’m hitting the ball,” said Redlicki. “I’m gonna work on that the next couple of days and be ready for this weekend.”