The up and coming UCSB women’s tennis team will unveil a new weapon this Saturday as the team begins its quest for an NCAA Tournament bid when it hosts Gonzaga.

Freshman Marielle Gruenig has gone straight from Swiss prep star, to her high school graduation in December, to playing alongside Big West Player of the Year hopeful Uzma Khan in the coveted #1 doubles. Together, they will try to form the explosive doubles partnership that UCSB Head Coach Pete Kirkwood has been seeking since Cindy Ammann, the Gauchos’ last Swiss star who graduated in June. In addition, Gruenig will slide into the #2 singles slot, immediately pitting her against other teams’ second best players.

The immensely talented Gruenig will have to make some adjustments on the fly as she gets her feet wet in college play.

Kirkwood, however, likes what he sees so far.

“She hasn’t played on hard court in two years because they only play clay court in Switzerland. But she’s adapting really fast; faster than Ammann. She isn’t hitting peak form yet, but for one week, she’s playing awfully well,” he said.

Kirkwood does seem a bit more concerned when talking about the initial results of the Khan/Gruenig partnership, which will get a tough test this weekend when the teammates match up against Gonzaga’s senior Jamie Butterbaugh and freshman Kendall Bates, a proven duo. Gruenig will shift to the forehand side, allowing Khan to continue in her usual backhand position.

“It’s going to be a good first test. Marielle is used to playing the backhand side. Marielle has made the switch, but it’s going to take some time for her to adapt,” Kirkwood said. “It’s going to take a little while for the chemistry to click and to come out and play well right away, but I like their chances.”

And how does Gruenig feel about her whirlwind journey from high school graduation to potentially whip up a national top-50 women’s tennis program? A little nervous, to say the least.

“I don’t know if I’m going to do well,” Gruenig said. “It is going to be a difference, but I’m going to try my best. I’m looking forward to it.”

One thing is for sure: She will have a determined veteran in Khan by her side to help her through the process.

“I’m focusing on every single match,” Khan said. “[The NCAAs] take into account individual performances when giving bids. If they want to give the bid to somebody with a loss, I want to tell them that they have to give me one because I didn’t lose all year.”