On Friday, the UCSB men’s and women’s swimming teams will travel to Northridge to take on the Matadors. The meet will begin at 2 p.m. at Matador Pool. Last year, UCSB beat Cal State Northridge at Santa Barbara.

The Gauchos started their preseason swimming in late October, but regular season swimming does not begin until Winter Quarter. The men lost their season opener against Cal State Bakersfield despite strong individual swims. Freshmen sprint butterfly/freestyle swimmer Pat Cary and sprint freestyle/backstroke swimmer Brandon Lee impressed the team by winning two events each. The Gauchos eventually lost the meet in the relay events.

The men are the favorite to win the Big West Championship this year, according to the Big West Coaches’ poll. UCSB came in second place in the conference last season, behind University of the Pacific. The Tigers are pegged to finish in second place this season by the preseason poll. UCSB’s young team consists of mostly freshmen and sophomores, but looks forward to a successful year.

“We have a lot of depth and a strong freshmen class with more speed. We need speed for the conference,” sophomore backstroke/butterfly swimmer Patrick Ota said. “But the freshmen still have more to learn about college training.”

The men have lost the Big West Championship the past two years, so the team plans to recapture the title this year. They also feel they have the strength to be ranked in the top 25 nationally and compete in the NCAA Championships in March.

“We have the team to do it,” Ota said. “We’re going to train hard through March.”

The Gauchos are not worried about the meet on Friday and plan to train right through it. Most of the top swimmers are staying at UCSB to train.

“Northridge doesn’t have the strongest team in the conference, so we’re not taking the top guys,” Ota said.

The women’s team is also expected to do well this season. The women placed second in the conference last year and, according to the same Big West Coaches’ poll, were chosen to place second again this year. The coaches chose University of the Pacific to swim away with the women’s title this year and ranked Irvine third.