The season is a marathon, not a sprint.
The Bruins finished with a losing record at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Division I National Men’s Team Indoor Championship – where some of the best teams in the nation squared off – but they know what they need to do to improve.
“If we work on our doubles, we can definitely beat the best teams in the country,” said junior Austin Rapp.
The No. 7 UCLA men’s tennis team advanced to the quarterfinals by defeating No. 9 USC 4-3 Friday night in a nail-biter that came down to the third set of the singles matchup between the Bruins’ No. 73 junior Martin Redlicki and the Trojans’ No. 13 freshman Brandon Holt.
But in the next round and against the top-seeded team in the tournament – Virginia – UCLA fell 4-0, and also fell in its consolation match Sunday against No. 4 Cal 4-3.
In both losses and the win, UCLA dropped the doubles point.
“I don’t know if we were intimidated by their ranking or their crowd,” said coach Billy Martin of the match against Virginia. “We looked a little timid.”
Yet Rapp believed the dominant scoreline didn’t accurately depict the gap between the two teams.
“On paper, it looks like we got absolutely destroyed,” Rapp said. “I think we can definitely compete with them as we progress into the season. I don’t think they’re a whole lot better than we are.”
To compete at a higher level, the Bruins are focused on improving their doubles’ performances. In addition to losing the doubles point in the dual matches, they also lost six of eight doubles sets.
“It really was a test to see where we stand and what we have to do next,” said junior Logan Staggs.
The doubles’ lineup was shaken up due to an arm injury suffered by senior and doubles mainstay Joseph DiGulio, who usually pairs with Rapp at No. 2 doubles.
In his stead, UCLA freshman Ben Goldberg made his doubles debut with Rapp, against USC on court three, and the duo won 6-4.
“He played unbelievably well,” Martin said. “We threw him in the lion’s den against top teams and he handled himself well and got good experience.”
Martin said there could be lineup changes to see what works better in the future.
There was another significant lineup change for the Bruins this weekend though, too. UCLA’s highest ranked player, No. 19 senior Gage Brymer, moved down to the second singles court in favor of Redlicki, who entered the tournament having won all seven singles games this season.
“I felt indoors it would be better to have (Redlicki) with his bigger serve and slightly more offensive game at one,” Martin said. “I don’t think we have a dominant No. 1 player. We’ve got two No. 1 players that can play either position.”
UCLA will travel back home to take on No. 20 Stanford on Saturday, moving back to outdoor courts, which it is accustomed to.
“It’s what we practice on and mainly play on,” Martin said. “Our guys have a game style that is better suited for slower courts.”