Santa Barbara, Calif. – At this point, one match can change the narrative of everything. As both the Big West and regular season come to a come close after this weekend, the UC Santa Barbara women's tennis team is in prime position to earn its first ever regular season conference title.
Two wins and it's theirs. UC Santa Barbara is currently first in the Big West standings at 9-12 overall and 5-1 in conference play. UCSB's momentum is at its peak as it has won its last three-straight matches.
But first, the Gauchos must win out their final two matches of the regular season. Looking to test UCSB's fate is both Cal State Northridge and Blue-Green rival Cal Poly. Both opponenets will attempt to spoil the Gauchos potential success story. CSUN is 7-9, 3-3 in the Big West while Cal Poly is 6-12, 2-5 in conference matchups.
Santa Barbara will first face CSUN on Friday in what will be its final home match of the season along with a celebration for Senior Day. The Gauchos will honor three seniors – Amanda Atanasson, Natalie Da Silveira, and Palina Dubavets.
Surely looking to make the most of the final home match in her career is Dubavets, who has been one of the Gauchos most consistent players as of late.
Dubavets has managed to be one of the Gauchos more reliable players in both singles and doubles play. She has avoided a loss in her last three singles matchups, earning two victories. Most notably, her and fellow senior Natalie Da Silveira, who are No. 42 in the ITA doubles rankings, have played a key role in UCSB's winning streak with four consecutive wins.
"I personally feel a lot better. I've had better results in the past two week probably because of spring break practices and not having that much pressure school wise, and being more focused on tennis," Dubavets said. "I have mixed feelings knowing this is my last home match ever. It's kind of sad because it has been an important part of my life for so many years, but it is exciting to step into the real world after and have new goals and challenges in life."
The chance of sustaining such prominence is likely considering the Gauchos dominance of both CSUN and Cal Poly in recent years.
UC Santa Barbara has not lost to CSUN since a 5-2 loss on Jan. 29, 2012 and has not been defeated by its Blue-Green rival since April 12, 2014.
Although the Gauchos have excelled against both programs, this weekend plants a larger target on the backs of UCSB. Considering UCSB controls its own destiny in potentially winning the conference regular season title, it must not get ahead of itself, especially with the Big West Tournament approaching.
"They're really motivated for Indian Wells [Big West Tournament], winning the tournament and entering the NCAA Tournament," Head Coach Simon Thibodeau. "But I don't won't them to look too far ahead because we still have two matches. I know the goal is to win the regular season, but we still want to take these two matches serious in hopes of building more confidence and chemistry because in the tournament there's no second chance."
There's no other way to sum it all up. Given that the Gauchos have been in this position before, having won 10 consecutive to enter the Big West Tournament last season, they understand that they can't take any set or point for granted.
"I don't think there is any pressure considering that we are currently first because we will need to win against the best teams anyways, even if we were seeded differently," Dubavets explained.
UCSB will host CSUN in its final home match of the season this Friday, April 20 at 1:30 p.m. at the Rec Cen Courts. The Gauchos will travel to San Luis Obispo to face Cal Poly on Saturday, April 21 at 1:30 p.m. as well at the Mustang Tennis Complex.