The Journey Begins...
Dear Slug Family & Friends,
I want to start by welcoming you to the 2011/2012 season for the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs. As we have recently wrapped up our fall portion it is a nice time to reflect as we begin to look forward to this upcoming season. I am very happy to say that I am entering this season with two remarkable assistant coaches who know Slug Tennis to their very core. Brian Pybas, having finished his playing career here for UCSC this past May, is entering his first season as assistant coach for Slugs. Brian was a key member of three National Championship Teams, and was a three-time singles and three-time doubles All-American selection. He won the NCAA Doubles Championship in the spring of 2010 and recently returned from Europe after earning 10 ATP doubles points this past summer. Matt Seeberger is entering his second season as assistant coach for the Slugs. A 2007 graduate, Matt’s illustrious playing career consisted of 10 National Championships; three team, three doubles, and four singles National Championships. He was a four-time singles and three-time doubles All-American Selection throughout his four years of play. With their playing ability, knowledge of the game, and enthusiasm to lead this team, it is safe to say I have the one of the best coaching staff’s in the country.
We have three new additions to the team this year. Devin Nerenberg, originally from Halfmoon Bay and recent transfer from UC Santa Barbara, has recently begun his junior year here at UC Santa Cruz. Eli Scandalis, a sophomore transfer from the University of San Diego, is also in his first season playing for the Slugs. Chico native Max Littlejohn, the Slugs lone freshman, wraps up our list of new editions to the team. These three young men, both assistant coaches, along with our long list of returning players, comprise a team that I could not be more eager and proud to lead this season. This group is extremely tight and connected, something that will be extremely important for us as we move ahead with our sights aimed high.
Fall ITA Wrap Up:
It would be easy to say the Slugs had a bad weekend at the annual Fall ITA Championships two and a half weeks ago. We didn't win the singles or doubles, and had a lot less of our boys deep into the main draws compared to the norm. As we proceed to take as much information moving forward from this tournament it is also very important for me to point out our many highlights. As our character was tested losing tough matches on the first day of competition the boys bounced back for the next two days, digging in as they pulled out match after match.
Parker Larsen and Erich Koenig had an amazing finish in their quarterfinal doubles match with a 9-7 victory over a tough team from Pomona Pitzer. Erich had lost a tough singles match earlier that day, but he and Parker went on to play stretches of great and very clutch doubles to get them to the semi-finals. Multiple times opposing teams served for the match, and with their backs against the wall Erich and Parker were able to respond. They went on to lose in the semi-final match to CMS’s top doubles team 8-3, but again showed stretches of great play that we will no doubt build off of.
New additions to the team Eli Scandalis and Devin Nerenberg also had a great doubles effort after losing to the eventual winners from Cal Lutheran 8-5. For playing together for such a short time I was very impressed with how connected and comfortable they looked on the doubles court. They went on to win the rest of their doubles matches in the tournament, winning the second round backdraw against strong Slug teammates Erik Rosner and Ian Stanley. Both Ian and Erik, having played together last season, continue to show great stretches of aggressive attacking doubles, taking them to the 2nd round backdraw final.
In singles both Devin and Erik Rosner played tough after losing their first rounds, going on to win four straight singles matches to meet each other in the 1st round back draw final. Ian also had a great effort winning two rounds before losing to a tough freshman from the University of Redlands 7-6, 6-1.
Bryce Bettwy played two solid matches to reach the other semi-final before losing to another tough freshman from the University of Redlands 6-2, 6-2. Michael Saria won a great first round taking down the number 13 seed but lost a tough match to CMS in the following round. It is very impressive seeing these boys determination to improve, along with their willingness to do the work.
Yushi Ayabe and freshman partner Max Littlejohn had a great finish for the Slugs as they beat a tough CMS team in the finals of the 1st round doubles backdraw. This CMS team had won two very close doubles matches against Slug teams Andre Halabi/Bryce Bettwy and Chris Goetz/Josh Mason. These four showed stretches of tough play but were unable to come over the top against this CMS team. With our team behind them Yushi and Max played an amazingly aggressive and gritty doubles match winning 8-6 to conclude our weekend.
In Both Back draws for singles we had 5 of the 8 semi-finalists. In both semi finals for doubles we had 4 of the 8, going on to win both. I was very impressed with the boys resiliency to bounce back after a tough day and compete with such focus and conviction. It was a step in the right direction.
I couldn't be happier with this group of young men I am entering my first season with. The things I have seen in previous Slug teams that make them special are ever present in this group. These boys are connected, supportive, and receptive to the coaching staff as they are willing to do the work. With a blend of tough competitors and leadership I am excited to see where we will take this season. It is clear we have a long way to go to meet our goals, but embracing the uphill battle has always been at the heart of Slug Tennis. Thanks again for all your support,