The UCSB women’s tennis team had two third-set chances to clinch the upset over the top team in the Big West, but visiting No. 51 Long Beach State held strong and barely edged out a 4-3 win over UCSB on Saturday. The Gauchos are now 8-12 overall and 3-2 in conference, while Long Beach improves to 13-5 (7-0) and clinches the top seed for the Big West Tournament.
“It was a tough loss, but I think everyone feels good about their games,” senior Natalia Lozano said. “Our goal right now is to get that doubles point — that will make the difference.”
The 49ers started with a 1-0 lead after sweeping the doubles point, although the No. 1 court easily could have gone to the Gauchos. Lozano and senior Jordan Dockendorf battled the nationally ranked team of Rachel Manasse and Laura Bernard to an 8-8 tie before dropping the tiebreaker, but Long Beach had already earned the point with an 8-5 win at No. 2 and an 8-2 win at No. 3.
UCSB stormed back to take three of the first four singles that finished despite a 6-1, 6-3 loss at the No. 1 court where senior Sofia Novak took on Big West Player of the Year candidate Anais Dallara. Lozano recorded the first point for the Gauchos with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Manasse.
“Honestly, the only important thing at the end of the year is the Big West,” Novak said. “Unless you win Big West, you don’t go to NCAAs. I think we’re in better shape than them, so it could definitely go our way.”
Dockendorf also made quick work of Julie Luzar at No. 6 with a 6-2, 6-2 sweep. Freshman April Scatliffe had another impressive performance in her 6-0, 6-4 victory over Bernard at court No. 3 and gave UCSB a 3-2 lead for the moment.
In the No. 4 position, sophomore Kiersten Meehan came back from a 7-5 first set loss against Sarah Cantlay to win the second set handily, 6-1. However, after falling behind 3-1, Cantlay ended up taking the third set 6-3 and tied the match at three apiece.
“I just told her to go out there and keep playing her game,” Assistant Coach Charlotte Scatliffe said. “Kiersten was the one that was on court last year when we were away playing Long Beach, and she clinched that seventh point … she played no fear, and it’s [about] moving on from here.”
Sophomore Paola Cos also forced a third set after losing the first 6-2 but winning the second 6-4 over Klaudia Malenovska at No. 5. Unfortunately for UCSB, Malenovska controlled most of the final set, starting out with a 3-0 lead and ultimately winning the 6-2 to keep Long Beach undefeated in Big West play.
“This shows we have a real good chance to beat them [if we play them in the Tournament],” Lozano said. “We can get the doubles point to get started and if not, two matches were really close.”
Santa Barbara is now tied for third place in the Big West with UC Davis and travels to play Cal Poly tomorrow at 1 p.m. The final home match of the season for the Gauchos is this Sunday when they will host UC Riverside.