Nicolas Moreno de Alboran has achieved the highest national ranking in singles by a UCSB tennis player, but it’s safe to say few of his fellow students have seen him play. The Gauchos play their home matches at the Rec Center courts, tucked away at the north side of the campus in the shadow of a multipurpose building.
Future teams will have more visibility when the Arnhold Tennis Center is constructed between a busy bicycle path and the Intercollegiate Athletics Building. It is the gift of John Arnhold, a 1975 UCSB graduate, and his wife, Jody. They have donated $5.25 million for the Gaucho men’s and women’s tennis programs.
“Last year, our NCAA first-round match at USC was incredibly exciting,” UCSB men’s coach Marty Davis said. “There were six courts with end-court seating — the best place to watch a tennis match — and people were jumping up and down. [John Arnhold] said, ‘We need that here.’”
Besides seating for 300 spectators, the planned facility will include locker rooms and a team lounge.
Moreno de Alboran, a senior, will have to visit the new courts as an alumnus. “I’m stoked for my teammates,” he said. “I hope to come back and see how our program keeps growing.”
Arnhold, former chairman of the board of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, is stoked about his alma mater. He also donated a substantial fund to UCSB’s English Department, but the New Yorker’s passion for tennis prompted his most generous offering. He further supports the program by serving as a volunteer assistant to the Gaucho women’s coach, Simon Thibodeau.
Tennis has been UCSB’s most successful sport in the Big West Conference since 2002, when the Gaucho men won the first of 11 championships under Davis. They have captured the last four titles and have won their last 25 matches against conference rivals. The women’s team won titles in 2016 and 2017.
Moreno de Alboran, the reigning Big West player of the year, is ranked No. 13 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association after being as high as No. 6 in the fall season. With a schedule that includes top-20 teams UCLA and Oregon (which visits UCSB at 2 p.m. on Friday, March 15), he delivers his powerful forehand against some of the nation’s top players.
“College tennis is great,” he said. “It becomes more competitive every year.”
The Gaucho senior models his game after that of Austria’s Dominic Thiem, a French Open finalist, and hopes to compete on the pro tour. If not, “Plan B is why I’m in college,” Moreno de Alboran said. He is majoring in global studies, a subject that suits him. He was born in New York, grew up in the Dominican Republic where his parents worked, spent some time in his parents’ native Spain, and went to school in London. “My older brother came to UCSB for academics and told me about this place,” he said.
With two other singles players in the top 100, junior Joseph Guillin (No. 39) and sophomore Victor Krustev (No. 94), UCSB’s men swept Pepperdine 7-0 and downed Loyola Marymount 5-2 last week.
Also on their roster is senior Anders Holm, who is being honored as a Big West scholar-athlete of the year along with Emilia Petrachi, a defensive dynamo on the Gaucho women’s volleyball team.
MARCH MADNESS: Heading into the Big West Basketball Tournament this week, every team in the conference (except for 9th-place Cal Poly) has a chance to play in the NCAA’s Big Dance. Since UCSB won back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011, there have been seven different men’s champions: Long Beach State (2012), former member Pacific (2013), Cal Poly (2014), UC Irvine (2015), Hawai‘i (2016), UC Davis (2017) and Cal State Fullerton (2018).
Here is the outlook on the eve of the 2019 tournament:
Big West Men:
Favorite — UC Irvine.
Final Four — UC Irvine, Cal State Fullerton, UCSB, Long Beach State.
Cinderella — Cal State Northridge.
UCSB needed a late three-pointer by Max Heidegger to win at Northridge last week, 76-74, and the Gauchos have to face the Matadors again at noon Thursday (March 14) in the opening game at the Honda Center in Anaheim. CSUN’s sensational 6′7″ freshman Lamine Diane was chosen player of the year after leading the Big West in scoring (24.8 average), rebounding (11.1) and blocked shots (2.1). He had a scary double-double (34 points, 13 rebounds) against UCSB. “I don’t have an answer [to stopping him],” Gaucho coach Joe Pasternack said. “I think he’s an NBA player right now.” UCSB has an impressive freshman of its own, 6′9″ all-conference (second team) forward Amadou Sow. The No. 2–seeded Gauchos (21-9) will count on their depth and balance to move on to the semifinals Friday night. The championship game at 9 p.m. Saturday will be televised on ESPN2. Coach Russell Turner’s top-seeded UCI Anteaters (27-5) are riding a 13-game winning streak and hope to be a Cinderella in the NCAA tournament. In the 2015 first round, they fell two points against Louisville, which made the Elite Eight.
Big West Women:
Favorite — UC Davis.
Final Four — UC Davis, Hawai‘i, CSUN, UC Riverside.
The first two rounds of the women’s tournament take place at UC Irvine, and UCSB had to open against the host Anteaters on Tuesday. The Gauchos went 4-4 in the last month to finish the regular season at 8-21. “I’m the only coach in America that has that record and can say it’s a fun group to be around,” coach Bonnie Henrickson said. All the starters will return next year, including all-conference selections Coco Miller (second team) and Danae Miller (honorable mention), and Henrickson is high on the four high school players they’ve signed.