After beating Washington State and Eastern Washington in Pullman this weekend the UCSB women’s tennis team ended their regular season 15-5, winning four consecutive matches – six of their last seven – going into the Big West Championships.
“We’re playing as good as we’ve played all season,” Head Coach Pete Kirkwood said. “We’re peaking at the right time.”
With a 4-4 record in the Big West, the Gauchos ended the season in a three-way tie for fourth place with Pacific and Cal State Northridge. While Kirkwood hoped that UCSB’s Big West-leading overall record would give the Gauchos the fourth seed, the seeding came down to a coin toss that put Pacific in fourth, CSUN in fifth and the Gauchos in sixth. Long Beach State finished the season undefeated in the conference, clinching the first seed with an 8-0 record. UC Irvine finished second with a 7-1 Big West record. UCSB will play third-seed Cal Poly, who beat UCSB 5-2 in their first meeting of the season on Feb. 20, in the first round of the tournament.
“We don’t care [about the seed],” Kirkwood said. “In our mind it’s better – if we win we avoid playing Long Beach in the finals, [and] we’re playing a lot better than when we played [Cal Poly] the first time around.”
The Gauchos played their final two matches outdoors, beating Washington State 5-2 on Friday and sweeping Eastern Washington 7-0 on Sunday. The only two singles losses of the weekend game against Washington State on Friday belonged to sophomore Jill Damion 6-2, 6-0 in the second singles slot and freshman Sofia Novak 6-2, 7-6 (5) in the third singles slot. Damion began the season 2-5, but won six out of her last nine to finish the season 8-8, while Novak finished the season with a team-leading 13-3 singles record. Junior team captain Bryanna Ojeda ended the season 11-3, playing all but one of her matches in the sixth slot. Freshman Natalia Lozano and junior Asagi Onaga, playing in the fourth and fifth spots, respectively, both went 11-5. Junior Michelle Murphy ended the season 8-8 in the first slot. The Gauchos’ doubles teams swept the doubles point in both matches.
Kirkwood plans to employ the same doubles and singles lineups he used in Washington. Murphy and Novak will hold down the first slot, followed by Damion and Lozano in the second and the team of Onaga and Ojeda in the third slot.
“Our lineups have already been turned in,” Kirkwood said. “Our doubles are strong; our singles lineup is set. We’re pretty confident.”
The Big West Championships will begin on Friday, April 17, in Indian Wells.