At the start of their match against Cal State Northridge, the Gauchos appeared to have punched their ticket to the next round. Up 3-0, UCSB was armed with the confidence of a dominant start and the knowledge that it needed only one match out of the last four to advance out of its first-round bout.
The thing is, no one told the Matadors.
Cal State Northridge, ranked #5, pulled off an upset victory, coming up from a 3-0 hole to shock UCSB 4-3 and knock the #4 seeded Gauchos out of the tournament in the first round.
“It was the most bitter pill I had to swallow in my 12 years as head coach.” UCSB Head Coach Pete Kirkwood said. “We never had a more heartbreaking loss.”
Posting 8-4 wins in #1 and #2 doubles, the Gauchos jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead. Then, CSUN sophomore Ana Matijasevic and junior Olga Yepremian defeated UCSB seniors Leslie Damion and Mio Fukushima 8-1 at #3 doubles.
Senior Marielle Gruenig won her match 3-0 by default at #1 singles after CSUN junior Silvia Gutierrez had to concede after an injury prevented her from finishing. At #4 singles, sophomore Charlotte Scatliffe encountered a familiar opponent in her bout with Matijasevic. Earlier in the season, in a 4-3 UCSB victory, Matijasevic defeated Scatliffe 7-6, 2-6, 7-6. However, in this match Scatliffe was able to record the two-set victory, defeating Matijasevic 6-1, 6-2. The win put Santa Barbara in the driver’s seat with a 3-0 advantage.
“Charlotte completely turned around in this match,” Kirkwood said. “She dominated. Charlotte has experience; she’s a full scholarship player and has a lot of experience in the junior circuit. She came out as a ball of fire.”
At 3-0, the Gauchos encountered a bit of trouble closing the door on the pesky Matadors. In #5 singles, senior YuYu Myinttun defeated Damion 6-1, 7-6, to pick up the first point for Northridge. It was there that Northridge staged its comeback. Trailing a set and down in both #2 and #6 singles, Northridge rebounded to win both matches in three sets. Yepremian defeated sophomore Brittany Kausen at #6 singles and sophomore Kanykey Koichumanova defeated senior Chelsea Glynn in #2 singles. With the score tied 3-3, the tiebreaker fell to #3 singles, where sophomore Canna Furuta defeated senior Andrea Pintar 6-3, 7-6 to break the tie and give Northridge the 4-3 upset.
“We were up a set at #2 and #6 singles,” Kirkwood said. “We only had two singles that had to win. We couldn’t get it done. It’s definitely a disappointing loss. To Northridge’s credit, they did what we always preach, which is hang onto the bar and never give up. They were three games from elimination. They could have thrown in the towel and gave up. But they didn’t. Disappointingly, we couldn’t finish them off.”
This loss ended the Gauchos season with a 13-9 record and a 5-3 record in Big West play.
“We have to look at the fact that we had a good year,” Kirkwood said. “We have a lot to be proud of. We are not going to hang our head on this match. The four years with these seniors – tennis-wise, player-wise, character-wise – couldn’t have been better.”