Rising temperatures mirrored the rise of the Fresno State men’s tennis team it they knocked off yet another ranked opponent on a balmy Monday afternoon.
The UC Santa Barbara Gauchos have an uneven record, but they have competed against some of the top teams in the nation. The same can be said for the Bulldogs whose season has followed a similar trajectory.
A great match could be the only expectation when these two dark horses clashed. The result did not disappoint the fans in attendance at Spalding G. Wathen Tennis Center.
The Bulldogs began the match on the No. 2 court with quickness and high-energy as the veteran duo of Sai Kartik Nakireddi and Nikolas Papic dominated a 6-0 opening set.
In what would become a theme of the match, the Gauchos stormed back to take the No. 1 court doubles set over the team of Euan McIntosh and Youssef Hassan in a tightly contested tie-break.
Fresno State seized the doubles point with stellar play from Adam Glynn and Eric Komati on Court 3 late in their set. After falling behind early, they held serve down 5-6 and dominated the tie-break by a score of 7-2.
A considerable difference didn’t hinder talented ‘Dogs sophomore Euan McIntosh from sweeping his senior opponent Ziad Sultan on the No. 3 court. The win gave the Bulldogs a decided advantage, up 2-0, and put the pressure squarely on the Gauchos to answer.
UCSB answered the call, sweeping on the No. 1 court against Papic on the strength of junior transfer Nathan Eshmade who held a 47-2 singles record in community college.
As the pendulum swung back and forth, Kartik, the wily and consistent senior, took his two sets 6-3 and 6-1 to give Fresno State a comfortable 3-1 lead.
However, the crowd tensed as the lead diminished. Young Bulldogs Eric Komati and Youssef Hassan each fell in straight sets to draw the match score even at three all.
After helping engineer the comeback that claimed Fresno State the doubles point, the onus fell on Glynn again. Much to the dismay of the visiting Gauchos, lightning struck twice on this day, as Glynn came up in the clutch once more.
Despite a furious comeback attempt by talented freshman Cody Rakela, Glynn held him off in the second set tie break, showing poise beyond his years as a member of the Bulldogs.
With Glynn’s victory, the Bulldogs celebrated their third victory against their last five ranked opponents, a promising trend for a young squad teeming with potential.
Next up for the Bulldogs is a home date against the Nevada Wolf Pack on April 18. This, incidentally is also Senior Day and will be the final match at the Wathen Tennis Center for Kartik.