The Big West has not been good to the UCSB women’s tennis team.
After taking two straight against nonconference opponents LMU and Hawaii last weekend, the Gauchos lost 5-2 to rival #71 Cal Poly on Friday and 6-1 to #60 UC Irvine on Sunday at the Robertson Gymnasium courts, dropping their conference record to 1-3. The team is 4-4 overall.
“We [ran] into two really good teams,” said team captain Bryanna Ojeda. “But if we keep working hard and doing what we’re doing in the Big West we can eventually beat them. As long as we keep fighting we’re right there.”
The Gauchos have now lost three consecutive conference matches. Due to a string of doubles losses, Head Coach Pete Kirkwood changed the doubles teams for Sunday’s match against the Anteaters, teaming freshman Natalia Lozano with junior Michelle Murphy in the first doubles slot. The pair lost 8-5 while the second and third teams lost 8-1 and 8-6, respectively. The Gaucho doubles were also swept against the Mustangs on Friday, bringing their overall conference record to 0-9 on the season.
“We have to figure [doubles] out before April,” Kirkwood said. “I’ll stick with our current lineups for three or four matches, although I think I’ll definitely stick with Michelle and Natalia. They’ll end up pretty good.”
In singles, Murphy lost in two sets to two strong opponents in the first slot, dropping her record to 3-4. She faced Cal Poly junior Suzie Matzenauer – a transfer who formerly started singles matches for a powerful Northwestern tennis program – and lost 6-3, 6-2. On Sunday, she lost 6-2, 6-0 to Anteater freshman Stephanie Hammel, who Kirkwood said was recruited by UCSB but opted to stay closer to home.
In the second spot, sophomore Jill Damion has continued to struggle, losing 6-1, 7-5 on Friday and 6-1, 6-4 on Sunday, giving her a 2-5 singles record.
“Jill’s very capable, she’ll be fine at the two spot,” Kirkwood said. “She had wrist surgery in the fall and she’s still rusty. She just needs to play more matches. She’ll be fine by April.”
Freshman Sofia Novak lost her first match of the season in the third slot on Sunday 6-1, 6-2, but beat Cal Poly’s Maria Malec 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 on Friday to bring her record to a team-leading 5-1. In the fourth and fifth spots, Lozano and junior Asagi Onaga each lost two straight this weekend. Ojeda was the only Gaucho to win both her matches this weekend, including a 2-6, 6-1, 10-8 tiebreaker against Irvine’s Ali Burowicz.
“Bryanna was stepping up, going for it, hitting some really great volleys,” Kirkwood said. “Those were the difference in the match. She took some chances, she played high risk tennis but executed, so it was really good to see.”
The Gauchos continue their home stand on Wednesday in a nonconference match against Fresno Pacific at 1:30 p.m. and Saturday against San Jose State at 11 a.m. Their next conference match is March 1 at Cal State Northridge.
“Against teams like Cal Poly and Irvine, you have to take risks and get out of your comfort zone,” Kirkwood said. “Talent wise, it’s going to be hard to keep up with these teams, but if we put the pressure on them we can have some good results.”