UCSB women’s tennis opened its 2010-11 season this weekend, hosting the inaugural UCSB Classic. The tournament featured players from UCSB, Pepperdine, Arizona, BYU, Cal Poly, Denver University and Eastern Washington University.

After playing well on the first day of the tournament, the Gauchos struggled on Saturday, failing to advance in any main draw matches or first consolation matches. A groin injury forced junior Jill Damion to withdraw from the competition. Her replacement, junior Natalia Lozano, turned in an outstanding performance, winning both of her two set matches.

“That was great for her,” Head Coach Pete Kirkwood said. “Natalie has been hampered by a bad back. She got more confidence with each set and looked real good by the end of her matches.”

Top-seeded sophomore Maria Zalameda defeated Pepperdine teammate junior Ali Walters in the A Flight singles championship 6-7, 6-4 and 6-2. The B Flight singles final consisted of Arizona teammates freshmen Susan McRann and Kim Stubbe. They will play the championship match in Tucson.

Sophomore Erica Cano, who won a match in the A Flight doubles tournament with senior Michelle Murphy, was also a standout performer in the B Flight single series.

“She played awesome,” Kirkwood said. “Erica played aggressive and she was attacking. She has shown a lot of progress.”

Freshman Kiersten Meehen was another highlight for the Gauchos, winning two of her four matches.

“She had a great tournament debut,” Coach Kirkwood said. “Kiersten beat a girl from BYU and another from Denver. She played well throughout the tournament mentally and physically. She was solid all weekend. That was impressive to see with this level of competition.”

Coach Kirkwood also saw promise from junior Alexandra McIntosh.

“She came back and played hard,” Kirkwood said. “After struggling early on, she won her last two matches. It was fitting for how our team finished the tournament.”

Although UCSB failed to place in their first tournament of the year, the Gauchos ended the weekend on a high note with a win from junior Jordan Dockendorf and positive feedback from the coaching staff.

“For our inaugural Classic, it was a huge success,” Kirkwood said. “Coaches got what they came for. In the fall, our goal is to play a lot of matches and play to win. It’s a chance for girls to work on their game and fight for a starting spot. We start playing the dual match schedule in January. That’s our championship season. Teams will be different in January.”

The UCSB women’s tennis team is currently without their number one player Sofia Novak, who is studying abroad in Spain. Novak returns in January.

The Gauchos continue their season on Oct. 21-24 at the ITA West Regional, held in San Diego.