Photo by: Derrick Tuskan
Freshman Sahm Irvine's straight-set victory at No. 2 singles clinched the match for UC San Diego.

UC San Diego Knocks Off Division I Ball State, 5-2

UC San Diego

LA JOLLA, Calif. - The University of California San Diego men's tennis team grabbed the doubles point and went on to defeat Ball State University, 5-2, at Northview Tennis Courts on Monday evening.

With the win, UC San Diego improved to 4-6. Ball State fell to 3-7. The NCAA Division I Cardinals, out of Muncie, Ind., were playing their second dual match of the day, having beaten Villanova earlier by that same score, 5-2. They went 1-2 in California on their Spring Break trip.

In doubles, the No. 1 and No. 2 courts wrapped within moments of each other, ending in a split to set up a dramatic finish at No. 3 for the opening point. Tom Carney and Thibault de Negri got past Triton freshman Sahm Irvine and sophomore Neil Tengbumroong at No. 2, 6-3. Juniors Marc Isaia and Sreeganesh Manoharan (San Diego/Torrey Pines HS) then evened things up at No. 1, 6-3.

Redshirt freshman Zach Ermert (Carlsbad/La Costa Canyon HS) and fourth-year senior Richard Han broke service to go up 5-4 in their match at No. 3 and served for the set. In that final game, Han had not one, not two, but three overhead smash points, including the capper, to close out the 6-4 triumph.

It was the first dual match together this season for all three Triton tandems as seventh-year head coach Timmer Willing adjusted his doubles lineup. All three had played together over the weekend at the 130th Annual Pacific Coast Doubles Championship, however, with Ball State also taking part in that event.

"We put Marc and Sree back together," said Willing. "They played at the Pac Coast Doubles, and then we saw a little bit of a flash from Richard and Zach in that tournament, so we thought we would give them another shot. I think it paid off. They both played pretty well. We got a big break toward the end of that set at No. 1 and kind of stole it, and then all of a sudden we just slipped in there and took that doubles point from some good doubles teams we played today."

An interesting sidebar to that doubles portion was that Isaia was matched up against Ball State senior twins Marko and Nemanja Guzina, with all three student-athletes natives of Toronto, Canada. The Triton captain in fact not only knew the brothers, but had played with them since he was about nine years old.

Isaia also faced off with one of them, Nemanja, at No. 1 singles, and lost after dropping a tiebreak in the first set, 7-6 (7-3), 6-1.

That was in fact Ball State's first point in the match, as Manoharan (6-1, 7-5) and then Han (6-3, 6-2) made quick work of their opponents at No. 5 and No. 6, respectively, for a 3-0 advantage to put Ball State on the brink of defeat. Manoharan led 5-2 in the second set before Carney rallied to tie it at 5-5. The area product then promptly broke the Cardinal senior and served out the contest, ending with an ace.

Irvine put together a spectacular effort at No. 2 against Marko Guzina. He first whittled a 3-0 deficit down to 3-2 in the opening set. Guzina won the next game for a 4-2 advantage, before the Rancho Palos Verdes product rattled off four straight to take the first, 6-4. Irvine's backhand was stellar all afternoon, and got better as the match wore on, with two huge crosscourt winners up 3-2 in the second. Fittingly, he unleashed another one on match point to clinch the result for UC San Diego.

The remaining two contests were allowed to finish. Tengbumroong at No. 3 and Ermert at No. 4 had both won second sets to force a third. Ermert finally fell, 6-4, 1-6, 6-2, while Tengbumroong completed his comeback, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Han was a key factor on the day, making his first dual-match doubles appearance since Feb. 17, and a first singles return since Feb. 15, winning twice.

The Tritons continue a season-long nine-match homestand against a pair of nationally-ranked Division II foes over the remainder of this week. UC San Diego welcomes in No. 16 Hawai'i Pacific on Thursday, March 7, at 12 p.m., and No. 4 West Florida on Sunday, March 10, at 9 a.m. Admission both days is free at Northview Tennis Courts on North Campus in La Jolla. Parking is only free on Sunday. Adverse weather is in the forecast during the week, so please stay tuned for any updates.

"Hawai'i Pacific is coming in on Thursday, and then West Florida of course as a national title contender," concluded Willing. "We have some holes to fill to make sure we're prepared for them. We have to figure out where we can find some weak spots, and then see if we can exploit them."

UC San Diego 5, Ball State 2
March 4, 2019 at La Jolla, CA (Northview Tennis Courts)

Doubles competition
1. Marc Isaia/Sreeganesh Manoharan (UCSD) def. Marko Guzina/Nemanja Guzina (BSU) 6-3
2. Tom Carney/Thibault de Negri (BSU) def. Sahm Irvine/Neil Tengbumroong (UCSD) 6-3
3. Zach Ermert/Richard Han (UCSD) def. Chris Adams/Conner Andersen (BSU) 6-4

Singles competition
1. Nemanja Guzina (BSU) def. Marc Isaia (UCSD) 7-6 (7-3), 6-1
2. Sahm Irvine (UCSD) def. Marko Guzina (BSU) 6-4, 6-2
3. Neil Tengbumroong (UCSD) def. Thibault de Negri (BSU) 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
4. Conner Andersen (BSU) def. Zach Ermert (UCSD) 6-4, 1-6, 6-2
5. Sreeganesh Manoharan (UCSD) def. Tom Carney (BSU) 6-1, 7-5
6. Richard Han (UCSD) def. Bryce Bonin (BSU) 6-3, 6-2

Match Notes
Ball State 3-7
UC San Diego 4-6; Regional ranking #4
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1,3); Singles (5,6,1,2,4,3)
T-2:23 A-50

About UC San Diego Athletics
With 30 national team championships, nearly 150 individual titles and the top student-athlete graduation rate among Division II institutions in the United States, the UC San Diego intercollegiate athletics program annually ranks as one of the most successful in the country. The Tritons sponsor 23 intercollegiate sport programs that compete on the NCAA Division I and II levels and, in summer 2020, will transition into full Division I status as a member of the Big West Conference. UC San Diego student-athletes exemplify the academic ideals of one of the world's preeminent institutions, graduating at an average rate of 91 percent. A total of 80 Tritons have earned Academic All-America honors, while 36 have earned prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships. In competition, more than 1,300 UC San Diego student-athletes have earned All-America honors.

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