May 13, 2010

Courtesy Cal Lutheran Sports Information

CLAREMONT, Calif. - UC Santa Cruz defeated the Cal Lutheran men's tennis 5-2 in the first round of the NCAA Division III men's championships at the Biszantz Family Tennis Center on Thursday.

The top two doubles teams in the West region faced off as top-ranked Andrew Giuffrida and Nick Ballou of CLU teamed up against UCSC's Brian Pybas and Marc Vartabedian at No. 1 doubles.

After the Kingsmen duo earned a break to go up 2-1, the Banana Slugs pairing responded in kind the following game and would go on to win five of the next six games to take a 6-3 lead. The CLU tandem held its service game before breaking back to get on serve.

Holding true to an 8-7 UCSC margin, the Banana Slugs earned double break point taking advantage on the first of two match-winning chances to secure a 9-7 victory. After starting the season 20-0, the No. 1 CLU doubles team has lost its last two matches.

Cal Lutheran would trail 2-0 after UCSC's Parker Larsen and Andre Halabi won 8-4 at No. 3 over Ray Worley and Jordan Culpepper. After the Kingsmen used multiple deuces on serve to pick up its first game trailing 3-1, Culpepper used a forehand service return winner to break and get back on serve 2-3.

The Slugs used a break of their own to go up 5-3 and won five of the final six games in taking the match. The CLU duo defeated that of its counterparts 8-3 in their regular season meeting back on March 20.

The CLU senior doubles team of Ryan Lassila and John Karsant put the Kingsmen on the board with an 8-6 victory at No. 2 to close out. Down 6-5 and facing triple break point, this pair not only fended off three straight break chances but won five consecutive points to win the game and tie the match, 6-6.

The come-from-behind game victory propelled the team's momentum breaking serve to go up 7-6 and Lassila served out for the match.

In the team's previous matchup this year the Kingsmen swept doubles to lead 3-0 heading into singles before holding on for a 5-4 victory over the then nationally top-ranked Banana Slugs. However, CLU could not turn the tables in the playoffs and succumbed to the strong singles play of its opposition.

For the first time this season for both Giuffrida and Ballou, each dropped a set at love falling 6-0 to open their respective matches at No. 1 and No. 2 singles. Giuffrida fell to Brian Pybas 6-0, 6-2 while Ballou retired late in the second set while trailing 4-2.

Lassila was the lone CLU double winner of the day cruising to a 6-1, 6-2 victory over regionally ranked opponent Erich Koenig. The senior picked up win No. 19 of the season and finished his Kingsmen career with a pair of victories on Thursday afternoon.

UCSC's Parker Larsen picked up the team's fifth and match-clinching point with a 6-1, 6-2 victory at No. 5 singles over CLU's John Karsant.

UC Santa Cruz will face Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in the West region finals after the Stags defeated Whitman (WA) College, 5-0 in the first semifinal.

Cal Lutheran finishes the season 19-3 and made its first NCAA postseason appearance since 2005.