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Men’s tennis to start NCAA championship at home against Grand Canyon

Senior Maxime Cressy has posted a 12-3 singles record so far this season, typically playing at the No. 1 spot in the singles lineup. Cressy has a 15-0 doubles record with his partner, sophomore Keegan Smith, at No. 1 doubles. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin)

Men's tennis

Grand Canyon
Friday, 2:00 p.m

Los Angeles Tennis Center
No TV info

By Jason Maikis

May 3, 2019 1:18 a.m.

It’s NCAA tournament time for the Bruins.

No. 11 seed UCLA men’s tennis (17-5, 8-0 Pac-12) will take on Grand Canyon (19-6, 5-0 WAC) in the first round of NCAA championship Friday at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. The winner of that dual will take on the winner of Oklahoma State (15-11, 1-4 Big 12) and Mississippi (16-12, 5-7 SEC) on Saturday for a chance to advance to the third round.

UCLA will play host for the first and second round of the tournament for the third straight year. However, the Bruins’ No. 11 seed is their lowest during that stretch after entering the tournament as the No. 5 seed in 2017 and the No. 2 seed in 2018.

UCLA previously bested Grand Canyon this season 4-2, but the Bruins were missing senior Maxime Cressy and sophomore Keegan Smith from the lineup. Cressy and Smith are No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in UCLA’s singles lineup and together are the team’s No. 1 doubles duo.

“I think Grand Canyon is a much improved team this season,” said coach Billy Martin. “The first time we played them was close, but we didn’t have (Cressy) or (Smith) with us, so I feel a lot more comfortable playing them this time.”

This tournament is Grand Canyon’s first NCAA tournament berth since it joined Division I prior to the 2013-2014 season. UCLA has made 43 straight NCAA tournaments dating back to the tournament’s introduction in 1977.

Grand Canyon went 1-4 against teams that made the NCAA tournament this year, with its lone win coming over Florida Gulf Coast (14-8, 7-0 ASUN). However, Cressy said the Bruins aren’t taking tournament play lightly.

“Especially during NCAAs, any moment we take things for granted the tide can quickly turn against us,” Cressy said. “We have to always be on our toes and ready for anything. It’s about focus and preparation for every point.”

Looking ahead for the Bruins, both the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Ole Miss Rebels have bounced around the top 50 rankings all year – with Oklahoma State peaking at No. 20 and Ole Miss at No. 25.

“If we’re fortunate to get by Grand Canyon, we know (we) have another tough team,” Martin said. “We’ve played Ole Miss in the past, we saw Oklahoma State play Cal in La Jolla. We know they’re good teams, so we expect a tooth-and-nail fight to advance to super regionals.”

NCAA tournament preparation is new for much of UCLA’s lineup, as it sports just two returning starters from last season in Cressy and Smith. However, junior Ben Goldberg said he is ready to take on the challenge of do-or-die tournament play.

“It’s what we work for all year,” Goldberg said. “Everything is on the line, so I’ll be bringing my best stuff to each tournament match we play.”

Because he is a senior, this will be Cressy’s last time playing in the NCAA tournament. Cressy said he’s happy to be playing for one last chance at a title.

“I definitely feel thrilled to play my last tournament with the team,” Cressy said. “We’ve been working our ass off for these moments, and it’s time for the hard work to pay off.”

The Bruins enter the tournament coming off a loss to the Cal Golden Bears (14-12, 4-4) in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament. Goldberg said the loss worked to teach the Bruins as well as give the team fuel for upcoming matches.

“It always hurts to lose, but you can learn a lot from it,” Goldberg said. “We hadn’t lost in over two months so maybe it wasn’t the worst thing in the world. We can really use it as a good wake-up call at the right time.”

In terms of lineups and possible changes, Martin said he believed in the team he’s played all season and doesn’t think now is the right time to alter the lineup.

“This isn’t the time to change,” Martin said. “You want to be fair to the guys who earned their spots all season. Our lineup has been true-tested this season and they’ll be ready for the tournament.”

The Oklahoma State-Mississippi match to determine UCLA’s possible second-round opponent is at 11 a.m. with UCLA’s match following at 2 p.m.

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Jason Maikis | Alumnus
Maikis joined the Bruin as a freshman in 2018 and contributed until 2019. He was an assistant Sports editor in 2019 and contributed for the football, men's basketball, men's tennis, women's tennis and men's water polo beats.
Maikis joined the Bruin as a freshman in 2018 and contributed until 2019. He was an assistant Sports editor in 2019 and contributed for the football, men's basketball, men's tennis, women's tennis and men's water polo beats.
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