Although it might be too early to tell, the UCSB women’s tennis team might have found the formula they need to take the doubles points against their Big West foes, sweeping San Jose State 7-0 on Saturday at the Robertson Gymnasium Courts and beating Cal State Northridge 5-2 in the North Valley.
A brief overview of college tennis: teams compete for points in a best of seven series. They play six singles matches, which count for a point each, and three doubles matches. The team that takes two out of the three doubles matches earns the doubles point. Since doubles are the first matches of the day, the outcome of the doubles point often, though not always, reflects the outcome of the match — and is arguably the most exciting to watch as a spectator.
“When we play [Pacific] and Irvine and Cal Poly and we reverse the doubles point [in our favor], I gives us advantage right away,” Gaucho Head Coach Pete Kirkwood said. “Now we’re up one, we got it done, we turned doubles around, so why not singles?”
The Gauchos (7-3 overall, 2-3 in the Big West) swept the doubles point in both their matches this weekend, adjusting their lineup against San Jose after scraping past Fresno Pacific 4-3 on Feb. 25. The team is 5-0 after winning doubles and 1-3 after losing, though the difference might be because of the high level of competition in the Big West. After this weekend, UCSB has won three straight.
“Since our losses to Irvine and Cal Poly, Coach has been talking about winning and losing streaks,” junior team captain Bryanna Ojeda said. “We really wanted to get a streak going before Northridge to carry that on until Long Beach [on Mar. 12]. But it’s still too early to say anything about the Big West. Winning one match against Northridge doesn’t say much. We have to continue.”
Kirkwood hopes to earn the third spot in the Big West, which puts them in the position to play a weaker Big West team in the first round of the tournament on April 17.
“If we get to 5-3 [in the conference], it would guarantee a fourth spot,” Kirkwood said. “Once you get to the semis [of the Big West Tournament], the seeds don’t really matter. All those matches are gonna be tough.”
In the first spot, junior Michelle Murphy split matches over the weekend, losing 6-3, 6-0 to CSUN’s Evgeniya Vertesheva. She dropped to the second doubles team and won two matches with her partner, freshman Sofia Novak, who improved to 9-1 in the third singles spot this weekend. Her fellow freshman, Natalia Lozano, also earned two wins after defeating CSUN’s Brooke Doane 4-6, 6-2, 6-0 in the fourth spot.
“So far, the freshmen are doing really well,” Ojeda said. “Sometimes you can definitely see some inexperience, but when the Big West comes around, they should be some of our toughest players.”
Ojeda split matches this weekend, losing 6-4, 6-4 to CSUN’s Nigora Sirojiddinona and bringing her singles record to 5-3. Sophomore Jill Damio rounds out the singles lineup with two wins in the second spot, including a 1-6, 7-6, 6-1 match against CSUN’s Nina Jaworowski. After struggling earlier in the season, Damion has won three straight singles matches.
“Like we said all year long, it was just a matter of time for Jill [after her wrist injury in the fall],” Kirkwood said. “She’s a lot more confident.”
The Gauchos return home on Sunday to play the University of San Francisco at 11 a.m., followed by another home match against the University of Alabama-Birmingham on Mar. 10. According to Kirkwood, both matches are merely preparation for a match against defending Big West Champion Long Beach State, who they play on March 12.