Retribution, the elements, endurance and a desire for victory: All of these things will come into play as the UCSB women’s tennis team travels to Indian Wells, Calif., on Friday to compete for the Big West Championship.
Santa Barbara comes in as the sixth seed and must beat #3 Long Beach State before advancing further in the playoffs. The Gauchos narrowly lost to the 49ers two weeks ago 4-3, and UCSB believes they have the power to beat them this time.
“We’re looking forward to a rematch with Long Beach State,” UCSB Head Coach Pete Kirkwood said.
The Gauchos closed out their regular season on a high note with two wins at home last weekend, finishing 10-11 overall and 3-5 in the Big West. The recent victories over UC Davis and Northern Arizona University serve as a confidence booster for the Gauchos as they head into post-season play.
“The win makes us see that we have a chance,” sophomore #1 doubles and singles player Marielle Gruenig said. “We really believe we can win.”
The 49ers put up a valiant fight last Friday against the #34 University of Oregon before losing 4-3, ending their season with a 15-8 overall record and 7-2 in conference play. Long Beach came out strong and intimidating, winning all three doubles matches only to lose the middle three seeds of their singles matches lineup. Australian junior #1 singles and doubles player Nicole Bouffler, the best singles player in the Big West, beat the nation’s #7 singles player Friday and will be looking to lead her team to victory. The winner of the Big West Tournament earns an automatic bid in the NCAA Championships, but the Gauchos have other ideas in mind.
“It’s not going to be easy, but we have to fight and hang in there. We feel like we can turn the tables on them,” Kirkwood said.
The Gauchos will not be focusing on taking the doubles point as they have in the past, but rather playing strong for the entire match.
“We can take them even if we don’t get the doubles points. It’s like a marathon race; the steady runner wins over the sprinter that jumps out at first,” Kirkwood said.
In the past three years, Long Beach State has either finished as runners-up or Big West Champs.
Indian Wells, located two hours east of Long Beach, expects temperatures in the 90s for this weekend, giving the teams something to sweat about.
“We’re ready to battle the elements,” Kirkwood said. “We just have to be tough.”
The Gauchos will most likely be taking on the #1 and #2 seeded teams should they win Friday, with the championship match scheduled for Sunday at noon.
“I’d like nothing better than to win the Big West,” #3 doubles senior Chelsea Dillon said.
First serve for Friday’s match against The Beach is slated in the heat of the afternoon at 2 p.m.