UCLA men’s tennis had a tuneup match midweek against Cal Lutheran, and coach Billy Martin took full advantage of it.
The No. 8 Bruins (17-4) revamped their entire doubles lineup and two-thirds of their singles lineup in a 7-0 sweep over the Division III Kingsmen (5-16) Wednesday afternoon.
“It was fun that we were able to have an extra match that we could do this and get everybody a little bit of tennis,” Billy Martin said. “It was a good way to have another dress rehearsal before the USC game, and it was really fun for me as a coach to get some of our players who really don’t get to play a lot of matches in (the lineup).”
Senior Travis Martin and sophomore Daniel Gealer saw their first dual match action this year in doubles play. Travis Martin teamed with senior Gage Brymer for a 6-1 victory at court three while Gealer paired with freshman Evan Zhu for a 6-1 on court two. Senior Michael Guzman then made his singles debut at court six, where he defeated Cal Lutheran’s Austin Wong 6-4, 6-3.
“They’ve dedicated and given so much of their time and effort and have been great team players so for them to be able to go out and get a little bit of the glory is important,” Billy Martin said. “In our sport, it’s hard – we don’t have a lot of fourth-quarter, up-30-points type of situations.”
Wednesday’s match also featured the return of senior Joe Di Giulio to singles competition. Di Giulio last played singles in early February against Florida, but he shut out Cal Lutheran’s Sebastian Ariza 6-0, 6-0 at No. 5 singles.
“The next step would be to possibly be able to play both singles and doubles in a match. I didn’t even want him to play doubles today just – I’d shoot myself if we didn’t have him for Ojai or the NCAA championships,” Billy Martin said. “It’s always important how he is the next day, but I have to say it’s been all positive and there’s nothing negative, no setbacks whatsoever.”
The only players who remained at their usual positions in UCLA’s singles lineup were Brymer at court one and junior Martin Redlicki at court two. Junior Logan Staggs moved up from his usual No. 4 slot to No. 3, while freshman Ben Goldberg manned the fourth position. Each of them won their matches in straight sets, dropping only nine games combined.
UCLA hosts No. 6 USC (22-4, 5-1 Pac-12) Friday afternoon, with the winner claiming the No. 1 seed for the Pac-12 championship the following week. The schools have split this season’s previous two matches – the Bruins won 4-3 at the ITA Division I National Men’s Team Indoor Championship in mid-February, while the Trojans won the rematch 4-1 in early March.
In both matches, USC won the doubles point, but Redlicki said the reason for the loss in March came from the team’s performance in singles.
“I think it came down to a couple courts honestly,” Redlicki said. “When I played at USC it wasn’t my best day and it wasn’t (junior Austin Rapp’s) best day either. We both got wins when we played USC at Indoors, so just a couple courts here and there is what’s gonna make the difference.”
Di Giulio, who won both of his doubles matches with Rapp over the weekend, could be in the lineup this time around, according to Billy Martin. The coach also added that he thought Zhu and Goldberg were a little intimidated playing in front of USC’s crowd, and Goldberg said he hopes the opposite effect will occur Friday.
“We’re hoping to have a really big crowd that can be loud,” Goldberg said. “We’ve been promoting the match a lot, so hopefully people are going to come out and support us. Their home crowd obviously helped them so hopefully our fans can help us out too.”