The #70 UCSB women’s tennis team is looking to extend the season of its six seniors for at least three more matches, as the Gauchos kick off the Big West Tournament this weekend in Indian Wells. The Gauchos come into the tournament as the #4 seed and are set to face Cal State Northridge in the first round.
“[Indian Wells] is a neutral site,” Head Coach Pete Kirkwood said. “So neither team has home-court advantage. It’s going be tough; the weather is dry and hotter up there and the courts are slower. But I think we have an advantage with our six seniors. The finality of the match may push them to extend their season for as long as possible. That gives us the ability to dig deeper to win.”
The Gauchos defeated Cal State Northridge earlier this season at home, 4-2. That game was decided when senior Leslie Damion defeated CSUN senior YuYu Myinttun, 7-6, 1-6, 7-6, at # 5 singles to give the Gauchos the victory.
“The first round is going to be tough,” Kirkwood said. “We beat them earlier in the season and it came down to the third set in the final game. We have to take the doubles point, make it a battle again. We won a couple matches 7-6 in the third set in that game and it’s going to be back and forth all match.”
The doubles match has been key for the Gauchos all season, as UCSB has posted a 10-2 record in matches in which the Gauchos won the doubles point
“If we take the doubles point, it will be big,” Kirkwood said. “It will be an uphill battle for CSUN. We have to continue to play well in doubles. It will be nice if we can play well and get the confidence going into the [semi-finals]. But we will take any win, of course.”
Whoever wins the CSUN-UCSB match will face the winner of the top-ranked Long Beach State and #8-seeded UC Irvine match. The Gauchos posted a 4-3 win in Irvine and Long Beach defeated the Gauchos 6-1 in UCSB’s final home match.
“We really want to get through Friday’s match and get our second shot at Long Beach,” Kirkwood said. “But Friday’s match will be tough. Everything we did all season matters right now. It’s win or go home now.”
Gauchos ended the season with a 13-8 record, splitting their final six games while posting a 5-2 mark during conference play. Northridge holds an overall record of 15-6 and a conference record of 3-4.
Leading the Gauchos have been seniors Marielle Gruenig and Chelsea Glynn. Gruenig, a 2005 First Team All-Big West selection, recorded a 13-4 record at #1 singles. In the final match against Long Beach, Gruenig had her own personal seven-game win streak snapped, as Long Beach freshman Hannah Grady defeated the Gaucho senior 6-3, 7-5. Glynn, who was a Second Team All-Big West selection, posted a 15-7 record, seeing time at both #1 and #2 singles. Both seniors teamed up for a 12-3 record at #2 doubles.
“We have been through everything, tough losses and rough wins,” Kirkwood said. “We have experienced everything you need for this. It’s been a long season, and now it’s when the tough survive.”