The Cal Poly San Luis Obispo club tennis team earned its second Southern California Tennis On Campus Championship this month. The team beat out UCLA in a rematch of the 2016 final.
The Mustangs breezed through pool play on day one of the championship, taking down B-teams from UC Santa Barbara and University of San Diego. In the Gold Draw, the team faced San Diego State in the quarterfinals and USC in the semis – both teams working to rebuild after losing key senior players in 2016.
The Bruins entered into the tournament as the number one seed with a veteran roster along with a couple of new faces. In pool play, UCLA faced dangerous teams from Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine – both capable of doing damage, but ultimately unsuccessful in their efforts. To get to the finals of the Gold Draw, the Bruins had to take down UC Santa Barbara and UCI’s A-team.
Once in the finals, both teams knew they had their work cut out for them. In the 2016 championship final, Cal Poly was able to get the win in a highly contested 26-23 win over the Bruins. This year, UCLA was hungry for the opportunity to reclaim their title as the top team in Southern California, a title the Bruins have known well since the program’s inception.
The final match started out with two extremely competitive doubles sets. The Mustangs took both of them, winning women’s doubles in a tiebreak and winning men’s doubles off of only one break of serve. Heading into singles, the Mustangs were up 12-9. They dropped women’s singles 2-6, but picked up a 6-4 win on the men’s side. The Mustangs had a one-game lead heading into the final set – mixed doubles- and it would be two veteran doubles teams battling for the title. Cal Poly SLO captain Alex Braksator and senior Christi Tain took on UCLA senior Ishaan Choubal and junior Joy Huang. For the first few games, the energy was tense on the court and among the fans in the stands. Everyone knew what was at stake. Braksator and Tain took control mid-match, however, and clinched the championship for Cal Poly with a 6-3 win.
The Mustangs are one of six Southern California teams who will travel to Orlando, Florida this spring for the National Championships. UC Irvine, USC, UC San Diego, and UC Santa Barbara will join Cal Poly and UCLA in a trip east to the New Home of American Tennis – the USTA’s new national campus. There, they will compete alongside 64 other teams from across the nation for the ultimate prize – the National Championship.
Back home at the Southern California Championship, the Silver Draw consisted of all of the teams that placed second in pool play. B-teams from Cal Poly, UCLA, USC, UCI, and UCSB were joined by UC Riverside and CSUN, along with UCLA’s C-team to finish out the draw of eight. It was an all-Bruin final and the Silver Draw ended with a tie. Neither team wanted to claim the victory over their teammates. As winners of the Silver Draw, UCLA won paid entry into the Tennis On Campus Spring Invitational in Surprise, AZ.
The Bronze Draw contained all of the third-place teams from pool play. Pepperdine fielded two teams in the Bronze, along with UC San Diego. They were joined by Loyola Marymount, CSUF, and B-teams from USD and SDSU. Like in the Silver Draw, one school dominated the Bronze. Both UCSD teams battled to the final, but chose to settle the match against each other in an uber-competitive game of water pong. UCSD-C ultimately claimed the title and the school earned a $50 gift card and a case of balls for their success.
Up next on the Southern California schedule is the Cali Cup, scheduled for March 4-5 at UCLA. The tournament alternates from Northern California to Southern California year to year and is reserved for the top four teams from each section championship.
The Spring Invite is scheduled just one week prior to Nationals on April 7-9, and is organized for the players who do not travel to the National Championship. Southern California schools are known to excel here, winning five of the past seven titles. In the 2016 event, UC San Diego and USC were finalists in the Gold Draw and secured bids to this year’s National Championship.