AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific was off to a great start in its 2011 season opener, but the lead quickly slipped away against a seasoned singles lineup from NCAA Div. II’s No. 31-ranked UC San Diego that brought 6 matches of experience into the contest and made it 7 in a row with a 6-3 win over the NAIA’s No. 3-ranked Cougars Thursday afternoon at the Munson & Bavougian Tennis Complex.
Azusa Pacific scored doubles wins in the top 2 positions to take an early 2-0 lead in the match, but Devon Sousa and Max Jiganti claimed a crucial 8-4 win at the No. 3 spot to give UC San Diego life heading into singles play.
The Tritons quickly evened the match when junior Janosch Apelt had to retire after the opening set at No. 1 singles to UC San Diego’s Erik Elliott, although sophomore Jochem Hoefnagels posted a 6-3, 6-4 win at No. 2 singles to keep Azusa Pacific’s chances at victory alive with a split of the last 4 singles matches.
Not much broke in the Cougars’ favor in those spots, as sophomore Alex Dickson dropped a second-set tiebreaker that could have sent his No. 6 singles match to a third set. Instead, it was a 6-2, 7-6 (7-2) defeat that dropped the teams into a 3-3 tie in the match. Of the remaining 3 matches, Azusa Pacific had dropped the opening set in 2 of them.
Junior Whitman Hough picked up a 6-4 opening-set win, but UC San Diego’s Sam Ling rallied with a pair of 6-1 victories to push the Tritons in front, and the Cougars dropped the 2 matches left in straight sets. At the No. 3 position, freshman Benedikt Eger also suffered a second-set tiebreaker loss for a narrow 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) defeat, while freshman Frederik Wilkens dropped a 6-1, 6-4 decision at No. 5 to give UC San Diego wins in 5 of the 6 singles matches.
With the loss, its first in a season opener since a 2005 defeat against UCLA, Azusa Pacific drops to 0-1 heading into its 2011 Golden State Athletic Conference opener, a Friday, Feb. 18 visit to Hope International.