The #69 UCSB women’s tennis team pulled out all the stops last Friday, as it defeated #51 UC Irvine 4-3 to improve its record to 13-7 overall and 6-1 in the Big West.

The match started out with the Gauchos sweeping doubles play, going into singles already in the lead 1-0. The #2 doubles game, with the Gaucho tandem of seniors Marielle Gruenig and Chelsea Glynn facing freshmen Heidi Kaloi and Clare Fermin, was the closest match in the season, with the Gaucho duo winning 9-8. In # 3 doubles, Gaucho seniors Leslie Damion and Mio Fukushima defeated Irvine sophomores Becky Bernhard, ranked #111 in the nation as a singles player, and Ashley Siddall, 8-6

“All doubles matches were great,” UCSB Head Coach Pete Kirkwood said. “I think that that was the best we played all year long. We swept the doubles matches; #3 doubles particularly impressed me. Irvine had their #1 and #3 singles players playing #3 doubles, and that made it a great match.”

With the game tied 3-3 in the singles portion, the tiebreaker once again boiled down to #5 singles. Damion and Irvine freshman Ali Borowicz battled back and forth, splitting the first two sets 7-5, 3-6. Damion, trailing 2-4 in the final set, came from behind to win #5 singles 7-5, 3-6, 7-6.

“That was the second time [Damion] was in that position,” Kirkwood said, “In the [Northridge] match, she was down in the tie breaker, and then went on to win. Here, she was down 2-4 in the tiebreaker, but she kept her poise and kept coming after her opponent. It all boiled down to an experienced senior team captain against a freshman that just got overwhelmed.”

With the win over UC Irvine under their belt, the Gauchos now face the top team in the Big West, Long Beach State. Long Beach is undefeated in Big West action and is ranked #23 in the nation. It will also be the Gauchos’ final regular home match, where the Gauchos will say goodbye to the six seniors on the roster.

“We need to win,” Kirkwood said. “We need a big crowd. The men’s team will be out of town that weekend, and they are our loudest supporters. So we need people to fill the void. It’s a big game for us. It’s basically the championship, as well as our senior day. Any time you have a championship game, you need support.”

The match against Long Beach will also determine what seeding the Gauchos will receive heading into the Big West tournament, which will be played April 27-30 in Indian Wells, Calif. With a win over Long Beach, the Gauchos could potentially receive the #1 seeding in the tournament; with a loss, the Gauchos would receive the #4 seed.

“We are 6-1 in the Big West,” Kirkwood said, “We just have to defeat Long Beach. They are the league favorite. The whole season comes down to Long Beach match. It all boils down to whether we get the #1 seed or the #4 seed.

The match against Long Beach State is scheduled to begin at noon Saturday on the Rob Gym courts.