As the regular season winds down, the UCSB women’s tennis team looks to get its season back on track against non-league opponent Saint Mary’s.
The Gauchos hope to rebound and snap a three-game losing streak. The skid, however, is somewhat misleading; all three of the losses were to nationally ranked opponents and occurred within four days of each other.
UCSB hopes to get back in the win column today at 2 p.m. at the RecCen tennis courts and gain some momentum as Santa Barbara heads towards the Big West Tournament. Head Coach Pete Kirkwood stressed the importance of the match.
“It’s very big; we’ve been through a tough stretch where we’ve played three ranked opponents and have had a player ineligible for 17 games,” said Kirkwood. “It’s important that we get back on track and finish out strong, especially with our biggest match of the year this Friday versus Long Beach State.”
The Gaucho losses were at the hands of #13 Fresno State (6-1), Kansas State (5-2) and #48 Sacramento State (6-1).
Luckily for the Gauchos, Saint Mary’s brings an unimpressive 7-12 record and a two-game losing streak to Santa Barbara. The Gaels also haven’t had much success against the Big West this year, with losses to both Riverside and Northridge.
UCSB has been idle for the last week. Earlier in the year, Santa Barbara saw two bye and came out rusty in only their second match of the season, losing a nail-biter to Riverside. This late in the season, however, Kirkwood thinks the week off will be beneficial.
“It’s a positive,” Kirkwood said. “Earlier when we had two weeks off, it probably cost us the match against Riverside. Now the girls are tough, sharp and in better shape. If anything, they are probably getting tired so the rest and time off should definitely help.”
During the Gauchos’ recent slump, one of the few bright spots has been the encouraging play of sophomore Leslie Damon, who has won four of her last five matches. After knocking off opponents from powerhouses Sacramento State and Fresno State, Damon was named the Big West Player of the Week. At #4 singles, Damon beat Fresno State #4 singles player Vlatka Jovanovic 5-7, 7-5 (10-5) and Sacramento State #5 singles player Cristina Rivieccio 6-4, 6-4.
Kirkwood is pleased with Damon’s progression throughout the year.
“It’s really been a work in progress. She started the year playing tentatively but lately has been really aggressive on the baseline, volleying, attacking and following,” said Kirkwood. “She used to set up her points, but not always finishing. Now she’s finishing off all her points really well.”
First serve is today at 2 p.m.