The streaks live on.
UCLA men’s tennis has advanced to the NCAA Tournament round of 16 every year since the tournament expanded in 1996 and extended its winning streak to 17 after a pair of 4-0 wins over the Weber State Wildcats and University of San Diego Toreros.
As the top team in their regional and the No. 3 overall seed, the Bruins (24-2, 9-0 Pac-12) lost only two singles sets combined against the unranked Wildcats (14-8, 10-1 Big Sky) and No. 28 Toreros (24-8, 9-0 West Coast Conference).
The match against the Toreros was all but decided by the doubles point, which came down to sophomore Austin Rapp and freshman Maxime Cressy on court three. The pair were down a break 2-4, but they held serve and broke USD’s Alexandros Araouzos and Jaan Kononov to tie the set at 4-4. Both teams held from there to bring the set to a tiebreaker, which UCLA won on a net cord serve that barely trickled into the service court.
The Bruins rode the momentum from winning the doubles point into three straight-set routs in singles.
“The doubles point really gave us a great shot in the arm,” said coach Billy Martin. “(Rapp and Cressy) had the composure to fight back and win the No. 3 doubles, which I think was ultimately crucial for us. Looking at singles, those two USD guys who lost that critical doubles match were the guys that faltered in the singles.”
While the Toreros faltered in singles, senior Karue Sell used his own loss in doubles to motivate himself for singles.
“I was very upset with how (junior Joseph Di Giulio) and I played in doubles,” Sell said. “I never like performing like that and not being able to get at least either a doubles win or a singles win. The way we played was so awful that I knew I had to do a better job in singles.”
Sell played his singles match with a vengeance, routing Kononov 6-0, 6-1, in under an hour to secure UCLA’s first singles point. The senior also won UCLA’s first singles point Friday, defeating Weber State’s Hou-en Chen 6-4, 6-0.
The same Bruin coincidentally also clinched both dual matches. Sophomore Logan Staggs bested the Wildcats’ Landon Barlow 6-2, 6-2 and defeated the Toreros’ Romain Kalaydjian 6-3, 6-2.
Although Martin said he didn’t think Staggs had a good matchup against Kalaydjian, the sophomore adjusted with some help from the scouting report.
“I was told by my coach that (Kalaydjian) likes the drop shot a lot, so instead of backing up, I was trying to move forward into the court and be ready for the drop shot,” Staggs said. “I focused on being ready for his big serve, just trying to adjust and not give him as many free points in the match.”
UCLA will now travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the remainder of the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins will face either Stanford or No. 14 Northwestern in the round of 16 Friday.