With four matches left before the Big West Tournament, the UCSB women’s tennis team is right where they want to be.
“We’re happy with what we’re doing right now,” Head Coach Pete Kirkwood said. “We’re competing well. Hopefully we’ll be peaking at the right time.”
The team swept Santa Clara 7-0 at the Robertson Gymnasium courts on Saturday afternoon, improving their record to 12-5 overall and positioning themselves for the fourth or fifth seed in a competitive Big West conference. Although four of the Gaucho’s five losses were at the hands of conference foes, UCSB is 9-1 in nonconference play.
With a 6-0 conference record, #47 Long Beach State holds the first seed in the conference, followed by 6-1 #49 UC Irvine and 4-2 Cal Poly. Pacific is tied with Cal Poly for third, but the team is scheduled to play both the Mustangs and the 49ers in their final conference matches of the season. Cal State Northridge and UCSB are tied for fourth. If Pacific loses their final two matches, the Gauchos beat UC Riverside in the last conference match of the season on April 4, and Matadors beat Riverside on April 7, the three teams will be tied for fourth place. In this case, since the Gauchos beat CSUN, CSUN beat Pacific, and the Tigers beat the Gauchos, UCSB will take the fourth seed.
In the worst-case scenario, the Gauchos lose to UCR and take sixth place in the conference, forcing them to play Long Beach or Irvine in the first round of the tournament. UCSB lost to both teams 1-6 during the season.
“Maybe the girls don’t think we’re intimidated, but we are,” junior team captain Bryanna Ojeda said. “Northridge won 4-3 against Irvine and we got killed [by them]. [Confidence] could change the results. We can beat these teams.”
In the match against Santa Clara, the Gauchos took all three doubles matches for the point, a feat the team has struggled with all season. After struggling to find the right doubles mix, Kirkwood thinks he might have finally found the formula the team needs to win in the Big West. The third doubles team of junior team captain Bryanna Ojeda and junior Asagi Onaga is 6-0 on the season.
“Our doubles is getting solidified: we now have our teams and our positions,” he said. “We’re winning the doubles points pretty regularly.”
Five of the six singles players took their matches in two sets. Freshman Sofia Novak in the third singles slot leads the Gauchos with an 11-2 singles record on the season.
After the Riverside match on April 4, UCSB will play their final home match of the season against St. Mary’s on April 7.