The UCSB women’s basketball team will get back to business this Sunday when it returns to Big West action to face Central Coast rival Cal Poly.

The Gauchos are riding a four-game winning streak, with two of the wins coming against Pac-10 members Arizona and Oregon State. The victories also mark the end of Santa Barbara’s difficult non-conference schedule, which the Gauchos finished at 6-5. UCSB recorded quality wins over Ohio State and Stephen F. Austin, plus UA and OSU, while dropping to Penn State and Virginia by a combined four points during its non-conference slate.

Santa Barbara currently stands at 2-0 in Big West games, putting them in a tie for first with Riverside, as well as Sunday’s opponent Cal Poly. UCSB began conference play with a sluggish 70-50 victory before soundly defeating Northridge 105-60 in what proved to be a career day for forward Kayte Christensen. The senior co-captain recorded a career-high 36 points on 13-15 shooting. Christensen then followed that up with another record-setting day when she riddled the Wildcats for 34 points while making an astounding 16 out of her 17 shots, breaking the record for most field goals made in a singe contest. After her two outstanding games, Christensen then chipped in 15 points in the Gauchos most recent win over the Beavers.

In addition to Christensen, a number of other Gauchos have stepped up for Santa Barbara during its four-game run. Freshman forward Kristen Mann has been a pleasant surprise, averaging 12.4 points a game, good for second-best on UCSB.

Sophomore center Lindsay Taylor is also averaging 12.4 a game and is second in rebounding, pulling down 7.9 caroms a game. With junior guard Debby Caine missing a number of games because of various injuries, freshman guard Mia Fisher has filled the starting point guard role with success and is third on the Gauchos in assists.

With numerous Gauchos experiencing recent success and given its recent success against the Mustangs, UCSB will be heavily favored to top the Mustangs this Sunday in an early battle for first place in the conference. The Gauchos will have more than just first place on their minds though. Santa Barbara will be looking to avenge last season’s loss to Cal Poly, a defeat that marked the end of UCSB’s remarkable 58-game conference winning streak. The shocking loss was as unprecedented as it was unexpected.

The Mustangs are in the midst of their own modest winning streak, claiming back-to-back conference victories over Fullerton and Riverside. Cal Poly has found its success by implementing a balanced attack, with eight Mustangs averaging over five points a game, led by senior guard Odessa Jenkins with 13.4 a game. Nevertheless, the Mustangs will likely need contributions from everyone if they are to run their conference record to 3-0.

The battle for first place is scheduled for a 2 p.m. tip-off this Sunday at the Thunderdome.