The collegiate tennis season kicks into high gear this weekend as the 2018 NCAA Championships begin play, and three local venues will host regional action this weekend. Both UCLA squads are in strong contention, with the men ranked at #2 and the women at #12. The USC Trojan men round out the Top Ten at #10, while San Diego kicks off regional tournament play on Saturday morning. Check out our NCAA Preview below, including Divisions I, II, and III and the Southern California teams who look to end their season with trophies in hand!
Southern California’s top ranked team, the #2 UCLA Bruins, host Division I men’s competition in Westwood at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. They face the international flair of Idaho to open the tournament on Saturday at 11am. Idaho is 15-7 overall this spring, led by senior Mark Kovacs and junior Carlos Longhi Neto. The squad features athletes from Hungary, Brazil, Mexico, and the United States. UCLA features the nation’s #1 singles player, senior Martin Redlicki, along with sophomore Evan Zhu and the energetic junior Maxime Cressy. UCLA is undefeated at home this year, and did not lose a match within the conference. Losses to Wake Forest (NCAA top seed) and Stanford are the only blemishes on a spectacular season for the Bruins.
Also in Westwood, #39 University of San Diego looks for revenge against Texas Tech (Sat., 8am). The Toreros fell to the Red Raiders earlier this season in a 4-3 defeat at home, but the young USD roster led by talented freshman August Holmgren will hope to even the score on a grander stage. Meanwhile, Texas Tech (19-10 overall) looks to top singles player, Canadian Tommy Mylnikov, to set the stage for a first round upset.
At David X. Marks Stadium at USC, the #10 ranked Trojans face Big West champions UC Santa Barbara (Sat., 11am) to open tournament play. Brandon Holt and Daniel Cukierman lead the 17-8 Trojans, who won five of their last six matches in 2018, including a shutout win over Stanford. The Gouchos of Santa Barbara feature Big West Player of the Year Moreno de Alboran. The junior was 15-5 in dual match play this year, and 28-10 overall. UCSB has won ten straight matches entering tournament play.
Division II competition is already underway, with #4 Azusa Pacific (27-2) advancing with a win over #5 Lynn. The Cougars come into the tournament with plenty of firepower, featuring three singles players who exceeded 20 wins each during the regular season. Grad students Oliver Frank (23-1) and Christian Schmid (20-2), plus freshman Jakob Schnaitter (23-2), hope to extend their win streak into the semifinals at Surprise, Ariz., meeting #21 Drury in the second round on Thursday at noon.
At Claremont, Division III UC Santa Cruz meets Claremont M/S (Fri., 5pm). The Stags are 28-3 overall and 9-0 in conference play, including a 13-match winning streak. They have lost only three matches at the #1 line that features SCIAC Player of the Year Nikolai Parodi, one of four Stags to earn first team All-SCIAC honors.
In Westwood on Friday, #12 UCLA (20-5) begins their trek toward a shot at the national title when the Bruins meet Fresno State (Fri., 1pm) to open the Division I women’s competition. Two-time PAC-12 Player of the Year Ena Shibahara (28-3) and sophomore Jada Hart (25-10) are among five Bruins to earn All-Conference Team accolades, only the second time in school history to honor five athletes with All-Conference status. Fresno State looks to gain an
early advantage with Emma Wilson & Georgia Lawson, a strong doubles tandem who earned a berth in the NCAA doubles competition later this spring.
In Malibu, Pepperdine hosts Idaho (Fri., 1pm) as the #13 Waves look to build on a 22-2 season, with losses only to UCLA and UNC. Pepperdine held the top national ranking (USTA) for a portion of the spring, led by two players in the national top 25, Ashley Lahey (#18) and WCC Player of the Year Mayar Sherif (#22). Senior Laura Gulbe leads the team with 29 wins. The Waves have lost only seven individual matches in singles 1/2/3. At 15-6, Idaho claimed the Big Sky title this spring, led by Big Sky MVP Marianna Petrei (14-3) and First Team junior Maria Tavares.
Claremont Mudd Scripps is in the second of Division III play, to face the winner of UT Tyler / Whitman on Friday. The Athenas (24-2) received a first round bye and carry a three match win streak against Top 25 teams behind Catherine Allen, SCIAC Athlete of the Year among six Athenas with All-SCIAC honors.