The #57 UCSB women’s tennis team hosts rival #66 Cal Poly on Saturday in its first Big West match of the season before it travels to Malibu on Sunday to play #32 Pepperdine.
[media-credit name=”Lance Chu” align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]UCSB was scheduled to play its first Big West match last weekend against Cal State Northridge, but the match was postponed to March 12 due to inclement weather in Northridge. At 5-1 overall, the Gauchos have won five consecutive matches without losing a set, a streak that propelled the team into the rankings.
“That’s a pretty incredible jump from being previously unranked,” Head Coach Pete Kirkwood said.
The team is the second-highest ranked in the conference behind #54 Long Beach State.
“We have to win these matches to show that we deserve our ranking,” junior Jordan Dockendorf said. “It could just as easily change this week.”
Two of Cal Poly’s three losses were to the nation’s top teams: #1 Stanford and #11 UCLA. Last season, the Mustangs (7-3 overall, 1-0 Big West) topped the Gauchos 4-3, with the doubles point being the difference. This season, Dockendorf and junior Natalia Lozano have made the Gauchos’ doubles play a team strength after going undefeated in all of their #1 doubles matches thus far.
“[The rivalry] definitely matters every year — it matters for me cause I was [playing] the match it was lost on last year,” Dockendorf said. “4-3 is a pretty hard loss.”
However, Kirkwood placed more importance on a possible rematch with the Mustangs in the Big West conference tournament.
“The previous two years they beat us in regular season but we beat them in conference tournament,” Kirkwood said. “Our conference is so deep that unless you’re the top seed it hardly helps — even the #2 against #7 match is really tough. “
The team expects the match to be much closer than their previous ones, and knows that there is a very fine line between winning 4-3 and losing 4-3 — especially since the winner of the doubles point only has to win in three of six singles slots to take the match.
“Doubles is almost the most important point,” Dockendorf said. “Individual points count a lot but if our doubles teams are strong enough, that will help tremendously.”
For the second straight week, the weather may push back the Gauchos’ Big West opener, as rain is in the forecast for Santa Barbara on Saturday.
“If there’s less than a 30% chance [of rain] we’ll probably go for it,” Kirkwood said. “We don’t want to make up a bunch of rain-outs — we’re gonna try to get it in.”
Pepperdine (5-2 overall) upset #33 Texas last weekend 4-3.
“Pepperdine is a great opportunity for us,” Kirkwood said. “Playing a higher-ranked team at their place, there’s no pressure. We’re looking forward to that.”
Kirkwood mentioned how UCSB hasn’t played the Waves in over five years but would like to make them a regular non-conference opponent.
“We definitely want to go down there and give them a good match and get them on the schedule for a yearly basis,” Kirkwood said.
Match time against Cal Poly is set for 12 p.m. Saturday at the Robertson Gymnasium Courts and 1 p.m. Sunday at Pepperdine.