It has been a long season for the UCSB men’s tennis team, but with several important conference matches looming, the Gaucho’s are hoping that now is the time to turn it around.

Returning to action for the first time in two weeks, the Gauchos (2-14 overall, 0-1 in the Big West) travel to Stockton today to square off against conference rival Pacific (2-12 overall, 0-3 in the Big West) in what is arguably their most important match of the season. UCSB will then head to Fresno on Saturday with hopes of upsetting #66 Fresno State (8-7).

“Friday is a big match for us,” Head Coach Marty Davis said. “Should we win all three of our conference matches from here on out we still have a good chance of winning the conference.”

Today’s match against Pacific is a rematch of last season’s Big West title game, in which the Gauchos enjoyed a dramatic comeback win that earned them the conference crown. While UCSB has struggled thus far to return to championship form, the Tigers have not fared much better at 2-12 on the year and a 0-3 record in Big West play. This is just the second conference match for Santa Barbara this season; its only other was a tough 3-4 loss to Cal Poly several weeks ago.

“It is a must-win situation for us and I think the attitude has been pretty good,” Davis said. “The practices have been terrific; I think these guys are really focused on defending our conference title – April needs to be our month.”

A great deal of this season’s frustration has been due to injuries; three of UCSB’s initial singles starters have missed considerable time. Outside of an injury to sophomore Max Taylor, who will miss this weekend’s matches, the Gauchos have recently had good news with the return of junior Jack Hui, who missed nearly six weeks with a wrist injury, to the singles lineup. Also returning for Santa Barbara is freshman Philip Therp who was also out with a wrist injury. Therp has not been permitted to play two-handed and will be relegated to playing one-handed for the rest of the month. That setback did not hinder Therp’s efforts in the Gauchos most recent match against Dartmouth, however, as he defeated Dartmouth junior Jeff Schechtman 6-3, 7-6 at number three singles, earning him the Big West Player of the Week honor.

“It is a bit of a handicap, but it isn’t something that he can’t get around,” Davis said.