Photo by: Andy Wilhelm

11 Home Dates, Critical Early Regional Tests Highlight UC San Diego Men's Tennis Schedule

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LA JOLLA, Calif. - The 2019 University of California San Diego men's tennis schedule features 11 home matches out of 19 regular-season dual contests.

Of those 19 opponents, six are from the NCAA Division I, beginning with future Big West Conference rival UC Irvine and crosstown foe San Diego State on the road. The remaining 13 are all Division II sides.

UC San Diego head coach Timmer Willing will utilize three dates during the second half of January to help prepare his squad for the regular season. The Tritons will host Division I program Nevada in an exhibition on Friday morning, Jan. 18, at 9 a.m., followed by scrimmages against Division III power Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Saturday, Jan. 19, and Cerritos College on Saturday, Jan. 26. Both of those start times are 11 a.m. The CMS Stags were Division III national champions in 2015.

The season will finally see an official start with back-to-back road matches at UC Irvine (12 p.m.) and San Diego State (10 a.m.) over the first weekend in February.

UC San Diego then welcomes in fierce rival Azusa Pacific for its home opener on Friday afternoon, Feb. 8, at 3:30 p.m. That match also kicks off a critical early stretch for the Tritons in which they are set to take on seven straight Division II regional competitors. The Cougars have ended their season in each of the last two years.

"Coming back in January, we'll have some scrimmages that get us ready and geared up to go into the start of our season with UC Irvine, San Diego State and Azusa," said Willing, who is in his seventh season in charge. The Tritons, who just had final exams last week, return to practice on Monday, Jan. 7, following the holiday break.

The day after a road meeting with city rival Point Loma on Wednesday, Feb. 13, also at 3:30 p.m., UC San Diego flies to Kailua-Kona, Hawai'i, for a key three-match weekend. The Tritons face Holy Names, Hawai'i Pacific and Hawai'i Hilo, Feb. 15-17.

"The big part of our season is that February month, because we have Azusa and Point Loma, and then we go to Hawai'i," remarked Willing. "So that first half of the month of February could decide whether the season is over or not, right away, because we play all of those schools. It's very important for us to have a good start in January and get ready to play Hawai'i Pacific and Hawai'i Hilo over there."

The Hawai'i return takes UC San Diego into a season-long nine-match homestand, as it entertains Sonoma State, Concordia Irvine, Villanova, Ball State, Hawai'i Pacific, West Florida, Quinnipiac, Hawai'i Hilo and Eastern Washington through the entirety of March. Four of those teams are from the Division I ranks, with West Florida the Division II national champion most recently in 2014 and 2017. That contest is on Sunday morning, March 10, at 9 a.m. HPU was the 2016 national champion.

"It doesn't let up," continued Willing. "By the end of the month (February), we are playing Sonoma State and Concordia, which are both in our region. With only taking four teams from our region for the NCAAs, it's day one, you could be bounced from the whole season, if you have a bad loss. So it's really important to start off well.

"Then we get into March, and it's busy, with a lot of Division I teams and Pac Coast doubles, but then it's packed in there with Hawai'i Pacific and West Florida. West Florida, I'm sure, is going to be in the top five in the country. It settles up with Hawai'i Hilo again. We do have quite a few Division I matches, with Quinnipiac and Eastern Washington coming in."

In the midst of that home stretch, the Tritons will again have representation at the Pacific Coast Doubles Championship, Feb. 28-March 3. That event is primarily at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, though some action could take place at UC San Diego.

Coming right off successive dates on March 30 and March 31 against Hawai'i Hilo (12 p.m.) and Eastern Washington (10 a.m.) to wrap up their homestand, the Tritons make the short trip up to Irvine that Monday, April 1, to meet Concordia at 1 p.m.

Senior Day at Northview Tennis Courts is Tuesday, April 9, as Point Loma visits La Jolla for a 3 p.m. showdown. The regular season concludes with another potentially-vital tilt at 2018 national semifinalist Azusa Pacific on Friday, April 12, at 2:30 p.m.

"In April, it's like alright, these are the places we are jockeying for, being in the regional, making sure we're in the top four," concluded Willing. "We're either going to be chasing somebody to try to knock them out, or we're defending our spot."

Following an alumni exhibition on Saturday, April 27, the 2019 NCAA Division II Championship begins May 11-14, with four teams again qualifying for the West Regional. The round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals and final will all take place at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs, Fla., May 21-25.

Admission to all regular-season home contests is free, with parking only free for Saturday and Sunday activity. Permits are required on weekdays.

UC San Diego captains for the 2019 campaign have been designated as Marc Isaia (team), fellow junior Marius Ruh (academic) and fourth-year senior Riku Hashiyada (community service).

Isaia and true freshman Sahm Irvine were listed at No. 15 and No. 20, respectively, in the initial Oracle/Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) West Region rankings back on Nov. 14. The doubles pairings of junior Sreeganesh Manoharan (San Diego/Torrey Pines HS) and sophomore Neil Tengbumroong, and seniors Richard Han and David Higgins, were No. 9 and No. 10, respectively.

The Tritons are coming off a successful 2018 season that saw them finish 9-9 in dual matches and qualify for a third consecutive NCAA Championship. They fell 5-1 at No. 11 Azusa Pacific in the opening round on April 30.

Off that team, Willing will have to replace graduated seniors Eric Tseng and Justin Zhang, who took up the top two singles positions and teamed up at No. 2 doubles.

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.

Follow the Tritons
For complete coverage and information regarding UC San Diego Athletics, follow the Tritons online at UCSDtritons.com and through social media on Twitter (@UCSDtritons), Instagram (@ucsdtritons) and Facebook (UCSDtritons). For more information on UC San Diego Men's Tennis, follow on Instagram (@ucsdmenstennis).

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