The rain may have dampened Isla Vista over the weekend, but the UCSB women’s tennis team won two home matches against Loyola Marymount on Saturday and Hawaii on Tuesday, improving their overall record to 4-1.
Gaucho Head Coach Pete Kirkwood hoped that the win over 5-2 LMU would give the team the momentum it needed to beat rival Cal Poly in a match scheduled for Monday, but the inclement weather forced the match to be pushed back until this Friday at 1:30 p.m. The team has four more games to play in their homestand, including the match against the Mustangs and another match on Sunday against #65 UC Irvine at 11:00 a.m.
Tuesday’s 5-1 win against Hawaii was delayed two hours and began at 3:30 p.m. – after the players spent much of the day roll-drying the tennis courts. The time delay forced the teams to skip the doubles point and to move from the Robertson Gymnasium Courts to the lighted Recreation Center Courts mid-match when it became too dark to play.
“I was very pleased with [Tuesday’s] match,” Kirkwood said. “It was a situation where we could have easily been burnt out, but we were just so tough and we played so well. Our energy and spirit was really remarkable. We couldn’t have asked for better prep for Cal Poly, we couldn’t be any more prepared for this weekend.”
The conference outcome is a question mark this early in the season. Kirkwood believes that #45 Long Beach State (2-3 overall), the Big West defending champion, is “a bit overrated” this season, but he still believes that the 49ers, UCSB, Pacific, #70 Cal Poly (3-0 overall, 1-0 conference) and #65 Irvine (4-1 overall, 2-0 conference) have the best chances of winning the conference. Pacific handed the Gauchos their only loss of the season on Feb. 8 in Stockton.
“We’re playing well above our own expectations,” Kirkwood said. “We had one hiccup against Pacific and we’ve rebounded well. In that match we were flat and weren’t competitive. In the two matches since then we’ve been the complete opposite.”
In the first singles slot, junior Michelle Murphy has gone 3-2 so far this season, her last loss in three sets to Hawaii’s Sophis Koubuch. Sophomore Jill Damion improved her record to 2-3 in a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Hawaii’s Natasho Zorec. Freshman Sofia Novak was bumped up to the third slot this weekend, improving her record to a perfect 4-0 after a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 struggle against Hawaii’s Anna Vine Peter. Junior Asagi Onaga, and freshmen Natalia Lozano and Ratchaya “Jean” Chaichanachaicharn round out the fourth, fifth, and sixth spots, respectively. Chaichanachaicharn sprained her ankle at 5-2 in the third set of her 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory against Hawaii. Although she managed to finish the match, her status for the weekend is day to day.
“The way we just battled and hung in there [against Hawaii], the match could have easily been 3-3,” Kirkwood said. “Jean was up match point in the third set and sprained her ankle, but the girl still came back and won. But if she’s not ready we won’t hesitate to put [junior] Bryanna Ojeda in, so we’re not too worried about the injury.”
Cal Poly’s singles lineup features 5-10 junior transfer Suzie Matzenauer, who posted 35 wins in singles and doubles over two years for Northwestern – a squad that is currently ranked first in the country by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. UC Irvine’s singles lineup consists of four underclassmen and two seniors. Freshman Stephanie Hammel starts in the first singles slot for the Anteaters, who swept UC Davis 7-0 in their last match on Feb. 14.
“This weekend will tell us a lot,” Kirkwood said. “Irvine and Cal Poly might be the best two teams in the conference. We’ll see after this weekend.”