MORAGA, Calif. -- After earning a split from two matches played at UCLA last weekend, the Saint Mary's men's tennis team returns to Korth Tennis Complex this weekend to host No. 53 Santa Clara and UC Irvine.
Friday's 3 p.m. match against Santa Clara represents the West Coast Conference opener for Saint Mary's (4-5). The Gaels have won two of their last three matches, with the lone defeat coming at the hands of No. 3 UCLA.
The day before playing UCLA, a 6-1 win over UC Riverside gave the Gaels their fourth win of the season, and saw plenty of solid performances up and down the lineup.
Even in the UCLA match, there were plenty of positives to take away. The primary momentum builder came at the top of the lineup, where Jesse Kiuru knocked off then-No. 58 ranked Dennis Novikov 6-3, 6-3 for perhaps his most impressive win of the spring season.
Also playing well in defeat were Tuomas Manner at No. 3 singles and Thomas Hunt, who battled to three sets at No. 6.
Kiuru will need to keep his strong play going, as Santa Clara (8-3, 0-1 WCC) brings its own top player in No. 66-ranked John Lamble. The junior from Saratoga, Calif. improved to 10-9 on the season with a straight-sets win over UC Santa Barbara's Benjamin Recknagel on Feb. 18.
The Broncos as a whole have been strong so far this season, with their losses coming against Michigan, Washington and BYU.
After playing Santa Clara on Friday, the Gaels will have a quick turnaround as they host UC Irvine on Saturday at noon.
The Anteaters (2-7) won their last match, a 4-3 victory over Loyola Marymount on Feb. 22. Ryan Cheung lines up at the No. 1 singles spot for UC Irvine, and won his last match as well with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over LMU's Othar Kordsachia.
Saint Mary's hits the road after the brief two-match home stretch, heading to Eugene, Ore. next weekend to play matches against Idaho and Oregon.