Opponent: Florida Gulf Coast (17-5)
When: Friday, May 8, 1:00 PM PDT
Where: Los Angeles Tennis Center, Los Angeles, CA
Live Stats: UCLA Live Stats
UCLA Resources: UCLA Official Preview
Our 16th-ranked Bruins face the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles this afternoon in a first round NCAA tournament match. As one of the tournament's top 16 teams, UCLA is hosting first and second round tournament action this weekend.
Checking in on the Bruins
UCLA enters the tournament on the heels of a disappointing performance against USC in the Pac-12 tournament. After two regular season defeats at the hands of the Trojans, the conference tournament loss was probably the most painful of the three losses, as the Bruins never really managed to mount a challenge. After surrendering the doubles point, the Bruins fought back briefly in singles, but they couldn't sustain the comeback, and the Trojans emerged with an unexpectedly lopsided 4-1 victory.
The Bruins (15-9, 5-2) are a good team, but certainly not a great team. Against the best teams in the nation (e.g., Baylor, Southern Cal), UCLA has looked ordinary. That's a bit of a surprise given the fact that the Bruins have the #3 player in the nation (Mackenzie McDonald), the 36th-ranked player (Dennis Mkrtchian), and the 118th-ranked player (Martin Redlicki). UCLA also has the 12th- and 86th-ranked doubles teams in the country, so this is a team capable of challenging the best teams in the nation.
UCLA's ability to make a tournament run depends a lot on getting more consistency from Karue Sell, Austin Rapp and Joseph Di Giulio. In particular, Sell seems to be the pivotal player for the Bruins; when he loses, the Bruins usually lose too.
The Eagles are in the NCAA tournament by virtue of winning the Atlantic Sun conference title. The 49th-seeded Eagles defeated the University of North Florida 4-3 in the conference final to claim the automatic NCAA tournament berth.
FGCU is not ranked in the most recent ITA top-75, and the Eagles don't have any ITA-ranked players or pairs. The Eagles #1 is former Trojan Jordi Vives. He enters the tournament with an 11 match winning streak and a perfect 8-0 record against Atlantic Sun competition. Vives was named to the Atlantic Sun All-Tournament team.
The Alfonzo brothers, Andres and Eduardo, are #2 and #5 for FGCU. Eduardo enters the tournament in very good form with a five-game winning streak, and he was named to the Atlantic Sun All-Tournament team.
Ricky Ventura is FGCU's #3. Ventura was the Atlantic Sun tournament MVP. Tianyu Bao is the Eagles' No. 4. He's won eight of his last ten matches, and was 6-2 in conference matches. Lastly, Michael Beiler is #6 for the Eagles. Like the rest of teammates, he's been playing well lately, and has an 8-1 record in his last ten contests.
In doubles, the Eagles use the following pairs:
- #1 Jordi Vives/Eduardo Alfonzo
- #2 Ricky Ventura/Lucas Vaz
- #3 Tianyu Bao/Andres Alfonzo
What to Expect
Although the Eagles have an impressive win-loss record, most of their victories have come against weak competition. They have no signature wins. They have no highly regarded players. They don't have the talent or experience to beat a top-20 team. Notably, the Eagles are 0-3 against teams in the 2015 NCAA tournament.
This match should be a cakewalk for the Bruins. And more to the point, it needs to be nothing more than a warmup for a second round match on Saturday. The Bruins can't afford to make hard work of an easy job if they expect to advance to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. Anything less than a 4-0 win over the Eagles will be a disappointment.