There is a lot at stake this weekend for the UCSB women’s tennis team.
The Gauchos will compete in the Big West tournament today down in Ojai to compete against Cal Poly.
Only a top finish in Ojai will satisfy Santa Barbara’s season-long goal: an invitation to the regional tournament. The Gauchos go into the tourney as the #4 seed in a field of nine. After having a first-round bye due to its placement in the top five, UCSB faces the #5 Mustangs today.
Last time the two teams met was last week at Santa Barbara, where Cal Poly slipped away with a 5-2 victory to close out regular-season play for both squads. The match was played without UCSB #1 singles and doubles player Cindy Ammann, who was battling a case of the stomach flu. The Gauchos were able to keep the match close without their ace netter and are confident about the matchup going into the tournament.
“We have some extra motivation this time around,” junior Shiho Fukushima said. “Overall, we played pretty well against [the Mustangs] last time, but this time we will be at full strength.”
Santa Barbara is playing its best team tennis of the season recently, having won seven of its last nine matches. Cal Poly (12-5) is also riding high, looking to keep its four-game winning streak rolling with its second win in as many tries over UCSB. Though Cal Poly won the last match, the Gauchos like their chances against the Mustangs.
“We feel really good about [the match],” senior Gaby Andrade said. “We’re all really excited that we have another chance at them, and this is [the match] where it really counts.”
The winner of today’s match will most likely face Long Beach State, ranked 57th nationally. The 49ers are the #1 seed in the tournament for the first time in school history. The 49ers are also riding a school-record 15-match winning streak.
Santa Barbara played at Long Beach on Feb. 10, this season; the 49ers dominated the Gauchos in a convincing 6-1 decision. This was at a point in the road where the Gauchos’ confidence was at an all-time low, evident by their substandard 0-5 record. Since then, UCSB has played stronger, and the players are riding high on their recent success.
“We are playing some really good tennis right now,” Andrade said. “We’ve improved so much and are playing so much better.”
For now, Santa Barbara must remain focused on today’s task, and that is a revenge victory over Cal Poly in order to put it one step closer to the regional tournament.