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The UCSB women’s tennis team faces a huge week ahead as the Gauchos look to open conference play with an away game this Saturday at UC Irvine.
The Gauchos (1-6 overall) find themselves in a significant slump heading into Saturday’s game against No. 42 ranked UC Irvine (3-4 overall), where they have lost their last four matches in a row. UC Irvine is one of the strongest competitors in the Big West that the Gauchos are set to meet. UCSB has been focusing heavily on mental strength and increased stamina thus far this season, and if the Gauchos want to come out of Irvine with the upset, they must dominate in these two aspects.
“We have had a tough schedule this year,” junior April Scatliffe said. “It would be nice to go into our first conference match with some more wins for confidence, but we have definitely had some highlights so far. We know we have what it takes to do well this weekend. Irvine is the toughest Big West competitor that we will face, so we have to go into the match super determined and aggressive to pull of the win.”
In their last match at home against Pacific, the Gauchos dropped a very tough decision 6-1. Many of the matches were close, but the Gauchos fell short nearly every time, with four of the six singles matches decided by a third set tiebreak.
The Gauchos have been plagued with injuries so far this season, and as a result, have been shifting their starting lineup quite frequently. The Gauchos have had three different starters at the first singles position thus far, and have really been trying to find their strongest lineup. However, in the case of this weekend’s match against UC Irvine, UCSB looks to be the healthiest it has been all season long with players returning to the court from injuries.
Irvine has had a decent season for being ranked No. 42 by the NCAA. They have defeated strong opponents in San Diego State 4-0, and Cal State Fullerton 4-3, but have been blown out by No. 30 ranked TCU 4-0 and were outmatched by No. 44 Pepperdine 6-1. In their last match against No. 9 USC, the Anteaters were swept 7-0.
Starting at number one singles for UC Irvine is Marivick Mamiit who fell to USC’s Brynn Boren 3-6, 2-6. The Anteaters have indeed had a tough schedule, but have dropped matches to teams who they were projected to defeat or who were of lesser rank. If the Gauchos arrive ready to win and get themselves in an early match lead against UC Irvine, then UCSB has a high chance of retrieving the win and the upset on Saturday.
Another factor contributing to the Gauchos is the change of scoring rules against conference opponents. The NCAA had been working out a trial run of new scoring to make non-conference games shorter. In all of UCSB’s matches up to this point, there has been no complete third set, but rather a tiebreak to determine a winner if the first two sets have been split. This has been received with great disdain by the UCSB players, because instead of a match being determined by skill, it becomes more of a toss-up of who can reach 10 points in the tiebreak first.
“Irvine will definitely be tough,” senior Kiersten Meehan said. “They are one of the toughest teams in the conference, but it will be great to go back to old scoring. I think we are a very fit team, so having the old scoring back will definitely work in our favor.”
The match is set to begin this Saturday at 11 a.m. at the UC Irvine tennis courts.
This article is an online exclusive and did not appear in the print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.