Santa Barbara, Calif. – The start of a four-match home stretch will begin this week for the UC Santa Barbara women's tennis team when the Gauchos host the University of Pennsylvania on Friday and Loyola Marymount University on Saturday.
UCSB enters this week's pair of matches looking to bounce back from being swept by then No. 33 Arizona State. The Gauchos are 6-8 overall and 2-0 in Big West play.
Penn visits UCSB with a 5-7 record, and will attempt to overcome its current three-match losing streak. The Quakers are 0-1 against Big West teams after facing Long Beach State on Tuesday. They will face No. 2 Pepperdine a day prior to playing against the Gauchos.
Contrary to Friday's match, the meeting between UC Santa Barbara and LMU entails much more history as the Lions are a familiar non-conference foe for UCSB. Rather than label it a rivalry, the history between both programs is best summed up by pure domination on behalf of UC Santa Barbara.
It has nearly been 10 years since the Lions last defeated the Gauchos. Loyola's last victory over UCSB took place on April 5, 2008, in which LMU notched a 5-2 win.
Based on such information, it would seem most plausible to automatically name UCSB as the winners of Saturday's upcoming match. However, LMU's 2018 campaign has been nothing short of impressive thus far as the Lions will come into Santa Barbara having won six consecutive matches and are 7-2 at the moment. Most notably, Loyola Marymount is 3-0 against Big West opponents this season.
In hopes of avoiding being the Big West team that loses to either opponent, the Gauchos must find a way to resolve an ongoing issue that has plagued them throughout the season – consistency within doubles play.
UCSB has lost the doubles point in two of its last three matches. Excluding its season opening loss to UCLA, Santa Barbara has lost each match in which it has lost the doubles point too.
While it doubles play has been an area of the Gauchos' game that calls for some improvement, the team's doubles pair of Palina Dubavets and Natalie Da Silveira has been most vital to UCSB having a chance to the win the point in each match.
Climbing 18 spots in the ITA Doubles rankings from No. 57 to No. 39, the senior combo of Dubavets and Da Silveira has not suffered a lost in their last five dual matches. More specifically, the UCSB tandem has won three of their last five matches, in which two of the five have concluded with an unfinished result.
In addition to receiving acknowledgement within the ITA doubles rankings, Dubavets was selected for this week's Big West Women's Tennis Athlete of the Week. She is now the third Gaucho, along with sophomore Amit Lev Ari and junior Stephanie Yamada, to earn the conference honor this season.
The hope is that the consistency of both Dubavets and Da Silveira in doubles play will trailblaze the remainder of the team as the Gauchos are just weeks away from resuming their conference schedule for the rest of the year.