Destiny turned out to be a cheap date.
The UCSB women’s tennis team suffered defeat at the 2005 Big West Championship Tournament in Indian Wells, Calif. on Saturday afternoon, dropping its semifinal match 4-0 to the eventual champions #4 seed Long Beach State. After disposing of Idaho 5-1 in its first tournament match Friday, Santa Barbara could not complete the season sweep of the rival 49ers. The Gauchos also lost to Irvine 4-2 in the third-place game on Sunday to finish the season at 15-9.
“We thought that we had the magic having the hottest team in the tournament,” UCSB Head Coach Pete Kirkwood said. “[Long Beach State] just came out focused and fired up. We beat them on their senior day on their home court a couple of weeks ago and I think they were just waiting to get back at us.”
Gusts of wind as high as 40 mph greeted the Gauchos at the beginning of its contest with LBSU. Santa Barbara dropped the doubles point out of the gate and could not secure victories at the #3, #5 or #6 singles spots, forcing the other potentially decisive singles matches to finish prematurely and end the match. #1 singles Marielle Gruenig, who had dropped the #1 doubles game with junior #2 singles Chelsea Glynn 8-4 earlier, was lodged in a 5-5 tie in the third set when the match ended.
“They were more aggressive and we got frustrated a bit,” Kirkwood said. “I give a lot of credit to [Long Beach State] and it shows why they won the tournament for the third time in four years.”
Santa Barbara came out reinvigorated against Irvine in the consolation third-place game Sunday, winning the doubles point to take the lead. But the Gauchos struggled at the single points, snagging just one victory at #3 singles where junior Andrea Pintar downed Anteater Hui Leow in straight sets 6-0, 6-3. At the time the match was called, Gruenig was losing her match at #1 singles 6-7, 3-4 to Irvine #1 singles Anna Bentzer, the probable 2005 Big West Player of the Year. Gruenig finished the year with a record of 18-2 at #1 singles.
“Marielle had one of the best years of any player that I’ve ever coached,” Kirkwood said. “I am very pleased with our season and proud of all of our girls.”
The Gauchos broke through many obstacles this season, as none of the players on the squad had ever defeated rivals Cal Poly and Long Beach State during their tenure at Santa Barbara. The Gauchos upset nationally ranked North Carolina State and won its last four conference matches to secure the #2 seed in the Big West Tournament. Five of UCSB’s top-six players are juniors and will be gunning for a conference title next season.
“There was a buzz going around at the tournament this weekend and other coaches are aware of how good we can be next season,” Kirkwood said.