UCSB Prepares to End Home Stretch vs No. 7 Illinois

Palina Dubavets (Photo by Eric Isaacs)
Palina Dubavets (Photo by Eric Isaacs)

Santa Barbara, Calif. – Based on recent weather forecasts, it looks as if rain won't be a concern for the UC Santa Barbara women's tennis team heading into this Saturday. After having two of their last three matches cancelled due to rainy conditions, the Gauchos will wrap up their four-match home stretch hosting No. 7 University of Illinois.

UCSB enters Sunday with an overall record of 6-9, and will attempt to put an end to its two-match losing streak. Illinois has been dominant as of late, having won its last three consecutive matches, making it 13-2 coming into Santa Barbara.

UC Santa Barbara remains in search of its first victory against a nationally ranked opponent. This season, the Gauchos are 0-5 when matched up versus such opponents.

UCSB last played on Sunday, March 16, against Harvard University. It had a 1-0 lead following its win in doubles play, but the match was eventually cancelled due to rain. Although it is expected rain won't be a factor this weekend, it has affected the Gauchos' practice week leading up to their meeting versus the Illni.

"It's always a hard time of the season for us, with finals and mid-season tiredness," senior Palina Dubavets explained. "Due to the rain and finals, it was hard to focus on tennis, but we've [also] had a little mental break from tennis which is good because we will train hard over the spring break. [We will] be focusing on our upcoming four matches over the break. We can forget about school and train more."

Last Sunday's doubles win was UCSB's first since sweeping the University of Arizona on March 2. The date also marks the last time in which the senior duo of Dubavets and Natalie Da Silveira won a doubles match as well.

Despite two of the team's last three matches being cancelled, Dubavets and Da Silveira have held their ground playing on court No. 1. They have won four of their last eight doubles matches, in which three of their remaining four have ended with an unfinished result.

While avoiding losses has been a positive, UCSB's pair recently dropped six spots in the ITA Doubles rankings from No. 39 to 45.

But the slight decline isn't indicative of the remaining players on UCSB's roster. More specifically, with a focus on singles play, sophomore Amit Lev Ari has been a star for the Gauchos.

Lev Ari has just one loss in her last eight singles matches. Excluding the loss, she has five wins to go along with two unfinished results.

As the Gauchos continue to work toward consistency in both singles and doubles play, how they manage to bounce back this weekend following last week's loss and the recent days of rain plus final exams is of most importance.

"It is always a challenge to have final exams in the middle of the season," Head Coach Simon Thibodeau said. "I thought the team handled itself well in the Harvard match. Now, we will try to get a good day of practice and take it from where we left off."

UCSB and No. 7 Illinois will face off at 12 p.m. at the UCSB Rec Cen Courts.