The UCSB softball team started off on the right foot yesterday, earning its first victory of the year 3-2 in eight innings over Sacramento State in San Diego State’s Campbell/Cartier Tournament.

In the win, junior pitcher Jennifer Davis went the long haul for the Gauchos, giving up two runs on eight hits while striking out eight. Junior outfielder Kendra Singley, who went 3-4 with an RBI, paved the way for UCSB along with freshman first baseman Tiffany Wright, who scored her first run as a Gaucho while going 2-3 at the plate.

The tournament, which continues today, features several teams in the upper echelon of collegiate softball. Many of the teams participating in this weekend’s tournament boast appearances in last season’s NCAA tournament, including Cal, the University of Massachusetts and last year’s national runners-up UCLA.

“We’re going to get the opportunity to be able to challenge ourselves against some of the toughest teams in the country, and I think that if we can see some success there then it will transfer over to conference play,” UCSB Head Coach Kristy Schroeder said.

Today, the Gauchos take on UMass and #2 UCLA. UMass enters the 2006 season coming off of its 17th Atlantic 10 championship and an appearance in NCAA Regionals last year.

The Gauchos are looking for their first victory over UCLA since 1991 this afternoon. The Bruins return nine position players that played in the College World Series last year including senior second baseman Caitlin Beyni, who hit .333 last year. Beyni is tagged to lead the Bruins while junior pitcher Anjelica Selden is expected to hold down the defense after posting a 1.10 ERA last season.

“I think the competition out there has really evened out across the entire country so we can’t take anyone lightly,” Schroeder said. “We play a lot of Pac-10 teams and the Pac-10 is always the strongest conference, or they have been for quite awhile.” UCSB finds another Pac-10 opponent in Cal on Saturday. The Golden Bears return four starters that played in their 2005 Super Regional losses to UCLA.

Santa Barbara finishes out the tournament Sunday against Oklahoma State, another 2005 NCAA tournament participant. A bulk of the Cowgirl players who helped them advance to their Regional final will take the field again this weekend.

First pitch against UMass is slated for 9 a.m. today at the San Diego State Softball Stadium.