After another disappointing loss against a competitive Harvard side, the UCSB women’s tennis team will have a two-day turnaround to get ready for No. 24 Fresno State today morning and another early duel on Thursday versus Boise State.
Santa Barbara owns a 6-6 record with five of its losses coming against ranked opponents and ending by a score of 4-3. With a win always within reach, yet the Gauchos have not been able to go over the hump against high level teams.
Boise State is currently 6-7 overall, 5-2 at home and 1-4 on the road. It has been a rough month for the Broncos thus far, winning two of their last six. However, they recently beat College of Idaho and Lewis-Clark State to the beat of 7-0 earning two bagels.
Fresno State on the other hand has had the best season so far among the three teams involved this week. The Bulldogs are 10-5 overall despite having their five-game winning streak snapped against Harvard on Sunday in a 4-2 loss.
Still, Fresno has managed to win eight out of its last ten matches. Also, against nationally ranked opponents the Bulldogs are 4-4, having recorded victories over No. 28 UCLA, No. 31 Arkansas, No. 58 Washington State, and then No. 56 Hawaii.
Fresno is a place that current UCSB Head Coach Simon Thibodeau used to call home for nine years when he was the Head Coach for the Bulldogs’ women’s tennis team.
During his time at Fresno he helped accumulate 159 wins and produced a plethora of nationally recognized players including ITA national doubles team of the year in Renata Kucerkova & Anastasia Petukhova. However, this game is just like any other, as the red and black attire he once donned are merely fond memories.
“All new girls, the assistant, the coach, all new people, but when you see the uniform, the logo, the colors, and ‘go dogs go’ it brings back good memories,’ but it’s just another team,” Thibodeau said. “They are doing a good job, they have a strong number one; it will be a good match. It would be nice to win against a former team but it’s not a rivalry or anything.”
Perhaps it may not be a rivalry in the traditional sense, but there is nothing like getting a win against a former team. The Gauchos have yet to get a win against the Bulldogs during Coach Thibodeau’s tenure, losing the last two times these two teams met. In last season’s meeting between the programs, the Bulldogs were defeated.
“We are a different team from last year; we have two players that played at the one and two last year and they are at the five and six this year.” Thibodeau said. “It will be nice to win, at one point. We have been close against everyone, just a matter of getting that extra point. We gotta make sure to finish these close matches.”
The Fresno State-UCSB dual promises to be a good one with plenty of talent. Most notably, the matchup between the nationally ranked duos of UCSB’s No. 19 sophomore Palina Dubavets and junior Stefani Stojic vs. Fresno’s No. 20 sophomore Mayar Sherif Ahmed and her sister senior Rana Sherif Ahmed will be most intriguing.
The Ahmed sisters enter with a 14-6 overall record in doubles, winning seven out of their last ten and are 3-3 against nationally ranked pairs. In the singles department, Mayar is No. 34 at 15-9, 5-6 against top ranked opponents. She has earned two consecutive conference player of the week awards along the way. Rana, the senior bulldog, is 10-10 overall with a 4-5 dual record, all at the four slot.
UCSB’s match against the Bulldogs will take place today at 11 a.m. at the Rec Cen Courts. Its contest versus Boise State is set for this Thursday, March 24 at 10 a.m. PST at the same location.