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Sunday, October 24, 2021

Player Spotlight: David Goulak

Fourth Year Men’s Tennis Captain reminisces on past accomplishments, prepares for final season as an Aggie

Balancing life around one’s academic work is difficult as is, but for fourth-year tennis star Davis Goulak, the balance is just another part of his everyday life.

Goulak is a force on the UC Davis men’s tennis team for both doubles and singles. He has participated on the team since he was a freshman, when he was awarded Big West Conference Freshman of the Year. The Oak Park, Calif. native has always been a strong leader on the court, too. He has been playing tennis since a very young age. When he was just 10 years old, Goulak started participating in competitive tournaments. At around 14, he began to gain more attention and started going to national-level tournaments. And by the age of 16, he was ranked in the top five in his region. 

A five-star recruit according to TennisRecruiting.net, Goulak was ranked No. 40 in the nation and No. 12 in the state of California. He also finished third in doubles at the 2015 U.S. Tennis Association Winter National Championships in Arizona.

 Goulak finished his high school career with the Coastal Canyon League MVP in doubles. For the Aggies, Goulak has been awarded Big West Conference Second Team Doubles his freshman and sophomore years and then first team doubles as a junior. He has been awarded second team singles during his sophomore and junior years. At the end of last season, Goulak and his doubles partner, junior Ivan Thamma, became UC Davis’ first ITA national doubles ranking since 2011, ranking No. 66 (as of Apr. 16) and finished the year ranked No. 4 in the ITA Northwest Region. 

The Aggie sat down with Goulak to discuss his tennis upbringing, his biggest accomplishments here at UC Davis and much more.

Aggie: You have had a tremendous career at UC Davis, both first and second team accolades for the Big West conference. What do you think has helped you get to where you are now?

Goulak: I mean it is probably a lot of things, like my parents pushing me when I was younger, my coaches when I was younger, getting recruited here, the coaches here, just everyone who has helped me get here. I also feel like I am a pretty hard worker — so my work ethic. 

Aggie: How did your youth playing and high school help prepare you to be such a force at Davis?

Goulak: My parents really toughened me — they pushed me. They made me understand that there’s a lot higher level to compete even when I was a kid and nationally ranked as a junior, there is still a lot of a long way to go so they were always there to help push me. [Those were] the biggest factors. 

Aggie: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced while being on the team here at UC Davis?

Goulak: Staying healthy. I keep on getting injured and it is so tough when you go through rehab and can’t be 100% at practice and you can’t compete or be there for your teammates. It is very tough mentally, and obviously physically — but that’s probably the toughest thing I have had to deal with. Also, time management. Sometimes it is so tough when you’re on the road for so long and missing so much class. 

Aggie: What are your goals this season, both individually and for the team?

Goulak: Individually — doubles-wise for me and Ivan [Thamma] to go to the NCAA tournament at the end of the year and try to be All-Americans. That’s our biggest goal. Singles-wise, I am just going to try to win as much as I can and get as many wins as I can for the team. And hopefully get first team singles this year. [Team-wise], hopefully we can have another good year and a winning record. The biggest goal is always [to be] Big West champions at the end of the year. 

Aggie: What are the prospects for the UC Davis men’s tennis going forward? 

Goulak: I think it is to just keep growing. The last five to six years, Davis had a bunch of losing records. Now we have a bunch of winning records. The last couple of years we won the number one going into the conference tournament. I think [head coach] Eric [Steidlmayer] is pushing in the right direction, he has a lot of big ambitions. Hopefully we win Big West this year and I am sure they will be pushing for wins in the first round of NCAAs and then keep pushing and get higher ranked. I know he wants to make this an elite program.

Aggie: How are you able to balance playing division-I tennis at a high level and your academic schedule as a mechanical engineer double major? 

Goulak: Good time management. I have been doing tennis and school my whole life — I just manage my day. I know what I need to do and how much time do I need to do it. I don’t really waste too much time with free time. You’re kind of just working all the time. You grind when you grind and if you have some free time, you go and enjoy it.

Aggie: For someone who must have been highly recruited out of high school, why did you ultimately end up choosing to come to UC Davis?

Goulak: A lot of reasons. I love the coach. I love the campus. I wanted to stay in California, but I wanted to get away from SoCal. The campus is unreal, the coaches are unreal. When I met the team, it was by far the closest team I met, compared to all the other campuses. It’s just a bunch of good guys — I just wanted to be around that. 

Aggie: What have been your major highlights or achievements so far in your career as an Aggie? 

Goulak: Me and Ivan [Thamma] last year, we won a pretty big tournament — a well-known Fall tournament called the Jack Kramer Classic. Davis had never played in that, and me and him, we won the doubles and I’m sure a lot of people out there hadn’t really heard too much about Davis Tennis, so that was pretty big. A bunch of doubles wins [as well]: beating Stanford, ranked 21 and 22 two straight years, and beating Cal when they were top two in the nation at that time in doubles. For singles, my most memorable win would be against UC Irvine my sophomore year. I was down match points in the second set, and came back to win and clinched it for us. 

Aggie: What are your plans for next year?

Goulak: I have another year in school because I am double majoring, so I still got some work. I want to try and start working right after college in the aerospace industry to try and work my way up there, and eventually my biggest goal is to be an astronaut. 

Aggie: What will you miss most about playing college tennis?

Goulak: The two things would be, [one] the comradery with teammates. All the road trips and late nights driving on [Highway 5] back from SoCal and just being with those guys. That was a lot of good, fun memories. The second thing would definitely be the competitiveness. That’s one of the main reasons why I play: I love to compete and I have never played tennis on such a competitive level. There can be a guy who is way worse than you and he will fight to the death with you, and he won’t care what name you are, what school you play for — he’s just going to compete. 

Written by: Frankie Veverka — sports@theaggie.org

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