MORAGA, Calif. -- The Saint Mary's men's tennis team will take another big step in its early season maturation process when it faces No. 2-ranked UCLA and UC Riverside this weekend at Korth Tennis Complex.
Saint Mary's is 4-1 on the season and enters this week's play on the heels of a 4-0 defeat at No. 12 Cal last weekend. Though the Gaels did not earn a point against their East Bay rivals, there were plenty of positives to carry into practice this week.
One is the continued solid play of freshman Nathan Lewis. The Australian has played at both No. 4 and 5 in the lineup this season and has a 4-1 record to show for it. Though he suffered his first loss at Cal, the big right-hander played well throughout and only lost by a narrow 6-4, 6-4 margin.
Sophomore Thomas Alexander Hunt has also been a stalwart in the Gaels' lineup so far this season, getting off to a 4-1 of his own. Hunt began the dual season at No. 4 but when injuries forced a lineup shuffle, he moved to No. 2 and won a pair of matches there as well.
As a whole, Saint Mary's owns a tremendous 18-9 record in singles matches this season. Joakim Norstrom, Tuomas Manner and Wil Martin are all over .500 in the win-loss column, and teammates Samuel Bloore and Alec Wagner have also shown flashes of good tennis. The Gaels have also been solid in doubles, with four wins from the team of Norstrom and Martin leading a combined 9-3 mark as a team.
UCLA comes to Moraga with a sparkling 5-0 record in dual matches so far this spring. Head coach Billy Martin, father of SMC's Wil, brings a team that last time out defeated No. 4 Georgia 4-3 in a thrilling match at USC's Marks Tennis Stadium.
The Bruins are led by a host of ranked singles players. Four of the six players in the lineup against Georgia own a national ranking, led by the No. 1 player in the country, Clay Thompson. Thompson plays No. 2 for the Bruins, with No. 11-ranked Marcos Giron occupying the top spot in the lineup. No. 62 Mackenzie McDonald, No. 120 Gage Brymer, Dennis Mkrtchian and Joseph Di Giulio round out UCLA's top six. Giron and McDonald are also ranked No. 10 in doubles.
UC Riverside will play twice more before coming to Moraga, as the 0-8 Highlanders head to Sacramento State on Friday and then kick off Big West Conference play on Saturday at UC Davis.
Head coach Tim Downey has used two players atop his lineup this season, with both Jack Felich and Luis Gastao seeing time in the No. 1 spot. Both enter the week looking for their first win of the year. Cooper Bridge and Michael Carella have occupied the top doubles spot most frequently, with one win to their credit so far. When the Gaels and Highlanders played last season in Los Angeles, Saint Mary's came away with a 6-1 victory.