After an impressive start, the #73 UCSB women’s tennis team will begin an important road trip on Thursday against Big West Conference foe Cal State Northridge. The Gauchos (2-0, 1-0 Big West) will take on the Matadors (2-3, 1-3 Big West) before heading to Irvine on Saturday to face the #68 Anteaters.

Prior to last Sunday’s victory over Santa Clara, Head Coach Pete Kirkwood said his team was aiming for a top-75 ranking. By defeating the then #73 Broncos and usurping their spot in the rankings, UCSB has accomplished its goal with only two games under its belt, allowing the team to aim higher. Going 2-0 on the road trip would almost certainly lift UCSB into the top 70.

An important trend that Kirkwood would like to see continued is his team’s dominance of doubles play. In two games against UC Riverside and Santa Clara, UCSB has won all six doubles matches, allowing them to beat their competitors by merely splitting the singles matches. While the Gauchos have also been impressive in singles play, their strong play in doubles will be important as the season gets more competitive.

Junior Marielle Gruenig has been dominant at the #1 spot. After going 11-13 last year, Gruenig has started out 2-0 – winning both matches in straight sets. Against Riverside’s Michelle Beyronneau, who had defeated her three straight times last year, Gruenig won 6-0 and 6-1. Her dramatic improvement coupled with the team’s doubles play gives the Gauchos a chance to get two points in every match.

Another important strength of the Gauchos is their impressive depth. Although Gruenig is their clear #1, their other five starters could all play #2 or #3 on a weaker team. This depth was critical in the win over Santa Clara when #2 Chelsea Glynn and #3 Andrea Pintar were both narrowly defeated. Although they had dropped two of the top three singles matches, UCSB dominated the 4-6 spots en route to a 5-2 victory.