This Saturday, the 1-1 UCSB women’s tennis team will travel to Auburn, Ala., to compete against the University of Miami, which currently stands at 17th in the nation, in the first round of the 2018 ITA Kick-off Weekend tournament.
The Gauchos will face off against the Hurricanes after splitting their season opening matches against two challenging opponents, No. 16 UCLA and unranked USC.
After suffering a 4-2 loss on Friday to UCLA, the Gauchos bounced back in a big way on Saturday, with a decisive 6-1 victory against USC. Saturday’s victory was the Gauchos’ first against the Trojans since 1994.
The Gauchos’ opening weekend was dominated by the outstanding play of junior Stephanie Yamada, whose impressive performances earned her a Big West Women’s Tennis Athlete of the Week award. Yamada lit up her opponents in both singles and doubles, putting her at 4-0 on the season.
Yamada will hope to continue her win streak this weekend, in what will be the Hurricanes’ first match of the season after a tough 2016-17 campaign that resulted in a 13-12 record.
This season, the Hurricanes are looking to make a run at an NCAA title with their two ITA ranked singles players, No. 36 sophomore Estela Perez-Somarriba and No. 41 senior Sinead Lohan.
Both Lohan and Perez-Somarriba have received numerous ACC honors throughout their careers at the University of Miami, and will likely put up a fight against the Gauchos in singles play.
While the Hurricanes’ ranked players pose a significant threat, the Gauchos have already proven that they can handle ranked opponents this season in their defeat of USC’s pair of ranked singles players, No. 35 senior Gabby Smith and No. 85 senior Madison Westby. The Gauchos also routed the Trojan’s No. 46 duo of junior Rianna Valdes and sophomore Angela Kulikov in doubles play.
If the Gauchos can secure more victories against ranked opponents early in the season, their case for appearances in the ITA rankings will only grow stronger.
Saturday’s matchup will also give the Gauchos a chance to showcase their talented freshmen, Elizaveta Volodko and Lise Sentenac, who started their UCSB careers in a relatively turbulent fashion.
Sentenac fell short in her first singles match against UCLA’s junior Gabby Andrews, and Volodko’s first singles match against UCLA’s No. 46 Abi Altick was ruled “unfinished” by the referee.
The pair also fell short in both of their respective doubles matches during opening weekend, and only Volodko would exit the weekend with a victory in her singles match against USC’s junior Valdes.
The Gauchos will look to give Volodko and Sentenac more exposure against the Hurricanes, and hopefully make them top competitors in the Big West.
Depending on the outcome of their match against Miami, UCSB will go head-to-head with either No. 13 Auburn University or Tulane University the day after.
Auburn could give the Gauchos another shot at a ranked victory, if the Gauchos wind up facing them in the final round of the tournament.
The Tigers boast a pair of ranked singles players with No. 53 freshman Jaeda Daniel and No. 77 sophomore Taylor Russo, and a No. 31 ranked duo of Russo and senior Alizee Michaud.
The Tigers are 3-0 on the season, and have yet to lose a single game, winning each of their three matchups with scores of 4-0.
Tulane does not dominate the ITA rankings in the same way that Auburn does, but the Green Wave has proven to be a formidable opponent so far this season with a record of 2-0. Like the Tigers, the Green Wave has yet to give up a single game to its opponents, defeating each of them with scores of 4-0.
Regardless of who they face following their matchup against the Hurricanes, it looks as though the Gauchos are in for a challenging weekend down south.
The match against the University of Miami is scheduled to be played on Saturday, Jan. 27, at 11 a.m.
The match against Auburn or Tulane is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 28, and the time of play is has yet to be determined.