While the athletic world has been stuck in limbo by the coronavirus, UCSB has been ascending into tennis heaven the last few weeks.
The Gauchos’ star senior received a top honor to go with an extra year of eligibility, their recruiting class was ranked among the nation’s top 20, and their new $5.25 million tennis center cleared its final bureaucratic hurdle.
“Things are looking great,” said Marty Davis, whose 21st season as UCSB’s head coach was halted 11 weeks ago by the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re just anxious to learn if we can get back on court in the fall.”
Joseph Guillin, UCSB’s No. 1 player, was named by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association as the Southwest Region’s Most Improved Senior after raising his NCAA singles ranking to as high as No. 8 and finishing at No. 26. He became the first Gaucho to ever win the Southwest Regional championship and he plans to take advantage of an NCAA waiver to regain his season year of eligibility.
“We’re really fortunate that Joseph decided to play another year for us,” Davis said. “He was on schedule to graduate but he’s decided to get a minor degree to go with his Global Studies degree.
“That award (most improved senior) is our favorite from a coaching standpoint. Blake (Mueller, Gaucho assistant coach) deserves a lot of credit for his individual work with our players.”
Mueller, who won the Southwest Region’s Assistant Coach of the Year Award in both 2017 and 2019, also helped UCSB’s Nicolas Moreno win the region’s Most Improved Senior Award last year.
Junior Victor Krustev, who played No. 2 for the Gauchos this spring, also plans to take advantage of the NCAA’s “coronavirus” waiver and play two more seasons for UCSB.
“To make it all work, he put off school this quarter,” Davis said. “Alejandro Vedri had a good year for us, too, playing No. 3 singles, and he’ll be back next year as a junior. We’re in great shape for the future.”
That future includes the recruiting class of Kai Brady (Palos Verdes High), Jett Cole (California Connections Academy), and Pablo Masjuan (Madrid, Spain) which was ranked 20th in the nation by the Tennis Recruiting Network. UCSB ranked higher than any other mid-major program, and finished better than even USC (No. 21) and UCLA (No. 25).
Brady is the son of former Gaucho star Kip Brady, whose winning percentage of .857 (24-4) during the 1989 season ranks second all-time at UCSB. He went 79-38 during his four years at UCSB.
“Kip was one of only three All-Americans that we’ve ever had,” Davis said. “Kai is a fantastic student as well as a hell of a doubles player.
“Jett is a lefty from Laguna Beach and a five-star recruit with loads of potential, too. And we’re really excited about Pablo. He’s very talented with a lot of upside.”
Other newcomers will include Oklahoma transfer Stefano Tsorotiotis, a junior from Libertyville, Ill. He was ranked as high as No. 25 in last year’s ITA national doubles rankings and he also posted a 17-7 record in singles.
“He qualified to play in the NCAA Doubles Championships his sophomore year,” Davis noted. “He figures to be right at the top of our doubles lineup. He’s a great student with both NCAA Team and Individual Championship experience.”
Another junior, Jonathan Zhang from Hong Kong, plans to play for UCSB next season after having transferred from USC earlier this year.
“He didn’t actually get to play at USC but we know his UTR (Universal Tennis Rating) is quite high and he’s beaten some really good players in tournaments,” Davis pointed out. “It’s going to be very, very competitive around here next year.”
He’s hoping their new facility will be ready by the end of next season. The California Coastal Commission gave final approval to the John and Jody Arnhold Tennis Center earlier this month and Davis hopes construction on the site of the old Robertson Gym Courts will begin within the next few weeks.
The project will provide six new courts, two refurbished courts, seating for about 300, and an 1,860 square-foot team building which will include locker rooms, a team lounge, and storage. John Arnhold, former chairman of the board for the International Tennis Hall of Fame and a Gaucho assistant coach, and his wife Jody, a trustee with the UC Santa Barbara Foundation, donated $5.25 million for the project.
“What’s also exciting is that we’re able to sell naming rights for the various courts and locker rooms,” Davis said. “We’re hoping to raise enough money to not only maintain the facility, but have some other enhancements over time, as well.”
He’s been told that the project will take from seven-to-10 months to complete.
“I know there are always delays with a project of this magnitude, but it would be great to have it done before our last match of the season against Cal Poly,” Davis said. “Even if we have it for only one home match, that would be a fun one.
“I think we could promote the heck out of our grand opening.”