Who says you can’t rebuild and contend at the same time?
The UCSB women’s tennis team, with five freshmen and just one senior, kicked off its season in a surprising destruction of a veteran Gonzaga team by a score of 7-0 on Saturday at the RecCen tennis courts.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt when UCSB Head Coach Pete Kirkwood’s one senior happens to be nationally ranked #76 Uzma Khan, who used a furious array of scorching backhands and forehand passing shots in a 6-0, 6-1 dismantling of Gonzaga’s #1 singles player, junior Jamie Buterbaugh.
“[Khan’s] groundstrokes were just unbelievable.”
Khan sees her opening victory as nothing more than a small first step.
“I was testing her for the first few games and just started going for the ball after that,” Khan said. “[Buterbaugh] wasn’t that great but it was a good warm-up to come back and start with.”
Freshman #2 singles Marielle Gruenig, who just arrived from Switzerland two weeks ago, battled some early nerves and late concentration lapses to hand Bulldog freshman Kendall Bates a 6-1, 6-4 defeat.
Gruenig definitely noticed some differences between the fan support back home and at UCSB. Gruenig’s match drew a raucous crowd, equipped with noisemakers and chants for their new star.
“I was not as nervous as I expected to be. It was great with the huge crowd and the noises,” Gruenig said. “In Switzerland, all we have is clapping.”
In other singles action, freshman #3 Andrea Pintar had her backhand passing shot on display as she defeated Zags senior Aaryn Volkmann 6-1, 6-1. In the #4 match, freshman Leslie Damion took care of Bulldog senior Katie Rock 6-4, 6-0 while Gaucho freshman #5 Lindsey Butterwick battled for a 6-1, 7-5 victory over sophomore Sirrah Williams from Gonzaga. Finally, freshman #6 Jennifer Kuhle used a blistering serve to complete the sweep, breezing by freshman Tanita Bird 6-2, 6-2.
Gruenig also held her own in doubles action, teaming up with Khan to beat Buterbaugh and Bates 8-3. Pintar and Damion romped to an 8-0 decision against Rock and Volkmann to wrap up the doubles point. In the meaningless third doubles match, Gonzaga tasted its only victory of the day, as the Butterwick/Kuhle combination fell to Williams and Bird 8-4.
The Gauchos will face a tough test this Wednesday as they go on the road to face #35 Pepperdine. According to Buterbaugh, though, the Gauchos have lost their training wheels and are ready to ride ahead.
“[UCSB] has so much talent and so much depth,” Buterbaugh said. “They’re young, but they’re going to go far.”