The final match of the men’s tennis team has come and gone, and with it the hopes of emerging from the Big West Conference Tournament victorious. But this past season, the team has attained far more than previous seasons and ended their year with exciting records that will be difficult for the program to top in the future.
After defeating UC Riverside 7-0 on April 18, the Aggies secured a share of their first ever Big West regular season title. However, with only one match left to play, they weren’t in the clear just yet. The battle to decide if there would be one or two Big West Champions was fought against UC Irvine and ended in UC Davis’ defeat. Their loss to UC Irvine anointed them co-champions, giving UC Irvine a No. 1 seed for the tournament and the Aggies No. 2 seed. The team has never received a higher seed.
The Aggies were guaranteed a first-round bye because of their seeding, and in the semi-finals they fell to No. 3 UC Santa Barbara 4-1, the team that went on to win the tournament. Sophomore Bryce McKelvie was the only UC Davis athlete to put a point on the board.
In the Big West Conference Tournament, UC Davis has faced UC Santa Barbara twice before, losing to them 4-0 both times, in 2009 and 2010. This season was the first time the Aggies had won a match against UC Santa Barbara in the regular season in years. It broke up an 11-match losing streak and gave UC Davis some short-lived hope for any immediate future encounters with them.
Although an unfortunate loss, it doesn’t sully their overall performance throughout the season. With an overall record of 16-6 and a conference record of 4-1, the Aggies went undefeated at home (8-0) and entered the tournament ranked No. 57 in the nation. In a record unbroken for over 20 years, the 16 total wins they earned hasn’t been replicated since 1992.
The doubles pairing of freshman Everett Maltby and sophomore James Wade has given an exceptional performance, with a total of 24 wins this season. They led the conference as they entered the tournament, and although they didn’t end up playing in it, their future as a pair holds a significant amount of promise for the team.
With improving records for three consecutive seasons under the tutelage of head coach Eric Steidlmayer, the Aggies must now turn their sights toward the future. The team is helmed by the recently named Big West Coach of the Year and will include a full returning roster from this year’s successful team. The UC Davis men’s tennis team is well within its means to tackle whatever obstacles will appear in the coming years with increasing success.
Graphic by Sandra Bae.