Men’s tennis preps for Southern California Intercollegiate Championships

Redshirt junior Connor Rapp will play in his fourth fall tournament this season, as UCLA men's tennis will send a group of Bruins to compete at the Southern California Intercollegiate Championships, hosted at USC's Marks Tennis Stadium. Last year, Rapp logged a 10-8 singles record, going 1-0 in the dual match season. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin)

When Billy Martin played for UCLA in 1975, he competed in the Southern California Intercollegiate Championships.

Now, the former Bruin, entering his 27th year as the UCLA men’s tennis coach will send a squad of Bruins to the Intercollegiate Championships – just as he does every year.

“This has been a tournament in Los Angeles since I played at UCLA,” Martin said. “It used to be at the Valley Hunt Club in Pasadena, then it went to the Los Angeles Tennis Club in Holmby Park.”

UCLA also played host for the tournament before the construction project for the Mo Ostin Basketball Center right next to the Los Angeles Tennis Center interrupted the Bruins’ ability to host fall preseason play. Since that time, the tournament has moved to USC’s Marks Tennis Stadium in downtown Los Angeles.

Senior Ben Goldberg, sophomore Eric Hahn and redshirt junior Connor Rapp will all make the journey across town for the Bruins’ last fall tournament. Martin also said Tuesday that the coaching staff decided junior Connor Hance would play as well.

Hance made his return from injury at the Jack Kramer Invitational in Rolling Hills Estates, California. The junior missed the entire 2019 dual match season after breaking two bones in his foot.

“He’s been on pins and needles after two broken foot bones last year,” Martin said. “It was disappointing to him as it was to us, and he had a very good tournament last weekend, I was so happy for him. We decided, I don’t want to get him into it too fast, but our medical staff and he (feels) great.”

Hance advanced to the quarterfinal in the singles draw, notching two straight set wins over his first two opponents. Teaming up with Goldberg, Hance also reached the last eight of the doubles draw.

Goldberg saw early round success in singles action, advancing to the quarterfinal before eventually falling to Brigham Young’s Sean Hill in three-sets. The week prior, Goldberg was part of a six-Bruin envoy to the ITA Regional Championships where no Bruin advanced into the final.

Despite the recent early round success, Martin said he hasn’t been overly impressed with the results of his squad so far.

“We have some players that are good players but I don’t think they have the physicality to play with some of the top teams right now,” Martin said. “They’re struggling to realize that the game is getting – every year – more and more physical. It’s tough being a student-athlete, I don’t want to make excuses for them, but I need our guys to increase their expectations yearly.”

As the dual match season will be upon the Bruins come January, Martin said the fall tournaments are a good way to evaluate his team before he’s forced to make personnel decisions for his starting lineup.

“January is creeping up where I have to make a decision on who is playing and who is watching,” Martin said. “It’s not easy for me or the guys to take, but it’s a reality that’s coming up.”

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