UCSB Wins First Ever Regular Season Conference Title, Clinches No. 1 Seed for Big West Tourney

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

San Luis Obispo, Calif. – Although the postseason holds more significance than the regular season, the final stretch of the UC Santa Barbara women's tennis team's season is one that can't be overlooked.

This is the case with the Gauchos, who ended their first ever regular season Big West title in the "round-robin" schedule era which began in 2006. They also clinched the No. 1 seed in next week's Big West Tournament.

For a third consecutive season, UCSB ended with just one loss in conference play in which it went 7-1 for a second-straight time. Having ended its 2018 campaign on a five-match winning streak, the Gauchos also finished just one win shy of the .500 mark at 11-12 overall.

UCSB played its best during the conference portion of its season. Santa Barbara ended both its regular season and Big West play with a 4-0 shutout of Blue-Green rival Cal Poly while on the road. Cal Poly ended its season 6-13, 2-6 in the Big West.

"We played well with quick wins at the No. 1 court in doubles and courts No. 1 and 2 in singles. We played aggressive and dominated those positions. Before we knew it, Lise [Sentenac] earned us the match point," Assistant Coach Maria Fernanda Alves said.

At the forefront of UCSB's dominant performance on the day was its doubles duo of Palina Dubavets and Natalie Da Silveira. Ranked No. 42 in the ITA doubles polls, Santa Barbara's senior tandem collected its sixth consecutive win as it blanked Cal Poly's Abigail Bacharach and MacKenzie Worsnop, 4-0.

Claiming the doubles point on the Gauchos end was senior Amanda Atanasson and junior Stephanie Yamada, who earned a 6-4 victory against the Mustangs' duo of Caroline Williams and Grace Olyphant.

Sophomore Amit Lev Ari and Sentenac had their match end with an unfinished result with them trailing 5-4 against Molly Reed and Susanne Boyden.

Leading 1-0, the Gauchos transition to singles play went smoothly, beginning with a quick 6-1, 6-0 win by Da Silveira over Cal Poly's Seriana Saltzen to extend UCSB's lead to 2-0.

"We really came together this season and turned things around," Da Silveira said. "Having only six players the whole year was a big challenge, and today we showed that we were able to overcome that challenge as we now enter the conference tournament as the No. 1 seed."

The other half of UC Santa Barbara's top doubles pair, Dubavets, followed up behind her partner with a 6-2, 6-3 win in her matchup against Worsnop.

With a 3-0 lead, the momentum had fully shifted in favor of UCSB. Although the Gauchos more experienced players in Dubavets and Da Silveira had stepped up with two quick wins, their youth made an appearance as well.

Playing on court No. 6, Sentenac emerged with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Cal Poly's Claire Bouquet to secure a 4-0 victory for the Gauchos.

After going 4-11 against non-conference opponents, the Gauchos last hope was to succeed during conference play.

As it turned out, the Gauchos didn't need hope for long as they dominated the Big West and will continue their journey to three-peat as Big West Tournament champions.

"We still have business left and will enter the Big West Tournament with more fight and grit than we ever have before," Da Silveira explained. "I really cannot express enough how proud I am of the team and the way that everyone has been performing throughout the year."

UCSB's No. 1 seed grants it a first-round bye in the Big West Tournament, which is set to begin on Thursday, April 26. UCSB will either face the tournament's No. 8 or 9 seed in the Quarterfinals on Friday, April 27.