Playoff fever has struck the UCSB women’s tennis team but none of the Gauchos seem to be concerned about the diagnosis.
Santa Barbara (12-6 overall, 4-2 in the Big West) hosts Central Coast opposition Cal Poly this afternoon at 2 at the Rob Gym courts in its most crucial contest of the 2005 regular season. Put aside the spoils reaped by bragging rights; today’s contest will determine Santa Barbara’s seeding in the 2005 Big West Conference Tournament. A victory would almost certainly assure the Gauchos a #2 seed and a seemingly free trip past their patsy first-round #7-seed opponent. On the other hand, a loss will likely spiral the Gauchos into a relative cellar at #5 with the painstaking first-round task of crippling the #4 seed.
“We’ve been gaining confidence lately but if we don’t beat Cal Poly it’s all for naught,” UCSB Head Coach Pete Kirkwood said. “I like our chances against our archrival.”
The 2005 Big West Tournament will be held April 21-24 in Indian Wells, Calif., where the temperature could exceed 100 degrees. A strenuous first-round match would entail up to four hours of afternoon heatstroke.
“You want to avoid a tough first-round matchup,” Kirkwood said. “We need a victory [over Cal Poly]. But it won’t break our spirits heading into the playoffs if we don’t win. We’re dangerous enough that we could still run the table [with a low seed in the Big West Tournament].”
The Mustangs (8-7, 4-2) enter today’s contest with the same conference record as Santa Barbara, Long Beach State and Irvine. Excluding UCSB, these teams were ranked in the top 75 nationally within the past two weeks. Pacific, which sits atop the conference standings with a perfect 6-0 record, barely edged Cal Poly 4-3 at home on April 3, despite losing the #3 through #5 singles points. On Saturday, the Mustangs dropped a convincing 6-1 decision to #32 Sacramento State in San Luis Obispo, losing all six singles points.
“I don’t think [the Mustangs] are worrying about what we’ve been doing because we really haven’t looked at their scores,” junior #1 singles Marielle Gruenig said. “Everyone is feeling good. We had a good practice [on Monday and we’ve been doing the same things as usual to prepare.”
UCSB is reeling from a season-swinging 4-3 victory over Long Beach State on Saturday afternoon that set up today’s match. The Gauchos are gunning for their fourth straight victory, while Gruenig is shooting for her 15th straight victory at #1 singles, a feat that would keep her in the running for 2005 Big West Player of the Year honors.