The #73 UCSB women’s tennis team underwent a complete overhaul this past season, saying goodbye to five of its six starters to graduation.

Junior Charlotte Scatliffe is the only returning starter for the Gauchos, playing at #1 doubles, with a new partner in junior Marta Simic. The Scatliffe-Simic duo is ranked 38th nationally.

“We are a young team, but talented,” Head Coach Pete Kirkwood said. ” I think our talent is strong, maybe even stronger. With experience, we will get better.”

Scatliffe will move up from her #4 singles ranking from last year to the #3 singles, and Simic will take over the #2 singles. Rounding out the rest of the top six singles are freshmen Carina Bjornstrom at #1, Tova Hausman at #4, and Asagi Onaga at #5, with the #6 singles still up in the air between returnees junior Brittany Kausen and senior Kristen Wilson. Scatliffe, as the only returning starter, will assume the leadership role on the team.

“Scatliffe is the leader,” Kirkwood said. “She is the team captain. I think she is the best team captain I’ve ever seen in my 13 years as coach here, maybe the best in all 17 years I’ve been involved in tennis here. She is a great leader, and the team respects her.”

With the #73 ranking in the FILA Collegiate Tennis rankings, the Gauchos are the third Big West team in the top 75 teams. Long Beach State reached the highest ranking at #27, and UC Irvine is ranked 55th nationally. Last year the Gauchos ended their season with a record of 13-9 record overall, and a 5-2 record in the Big West, tied for second place with UC Irvine and Cal Poly. Their season ended with a quarterfinal loss to Cal State Northridge in the Big West Conference Tournament.

The Gauchos kick off the 2007 season with their home opener against unranked Santa Clara this Saturday at UCSB’s RecCen courts. Last year, the Gauchos defeated Santa Clara 5-1, with a shortened game and no doubles point due to rainy weather.

“They are always a tough match,” Kirkwood said. “We’ve had success against them in the past. But the past three years, it was tough. There were lots of close matches. I remember one time, we lost the doubles point, and had to come back and win the singles. Last year, we didn’t play doubles points because we were afraid it was going to rain, and we won 5-1. But three of those wins were three-set serves, so the lopsided score doesn’t tell the whole story. We expect them to be tough.”

Santa Clara, with a new head coach in Ben Cabell, has five upperclassmen in its lineup. Senior Casey Knutson and junior Myra Davoudi lead the team in the #1 and #2 singles. The Broncos currently play in the West Coast Conference. Cabell was originally the assistant coach for the Broncos, but took over the interim head coach position in September.

Opening serve for Saturday’s match is set for 11 a.m.