Santa Barbara has Strong Start at ITA Regional Championships

Lise Sentenac (Photo by Eric Isaacs)
Lise Sentenac (Photo by Eric Isaacs)

San Diego, Calif.- The UC Santa Barbara women's tennis team kicked off the ITA Regional Tennis Championships in San Diego, Calif. on Thursday with a myriad of First and Second Round games.

The Gauchos traveled up to Berkeley for their first tournament of the season earlier this month, but the competition in San Diego this weekend is sterling and stout with appearances from No. 11 Pepperdine and No. 13 UCLA. 

"There are going to be better teams at the regionals, I think a little deeper teams," said Coach Simon Thibodeau on his squad's tall task this weekend. "I think it's a good test; a reality check to play some of the better players. That's what we're looking for: to take the opportunities in the fall to get some good wins and build on confidence."

The Gauchos are down two players over the weekend as senior captain Stephanie Yamada and junior Dominika Paterova were held out of the ITA Regional Championships due to minor health concerns. Although only six of the eight Gauchos on the roster are competing this weekend, it was an eventful Day 1 in the team's second tournament of the year.

Competing in a 128 player draw size, sophomore Lise Sentenac led the way for the Gauchos with a strong start to the weekend as she blew past competition in the Singles bracket. Sentenac eliminated Natalie Shamma out of UC Riverside with a 6-4; 6-2 triumph to advance into the second round. 

The second year French native continued her success in the second round with consecutive set wins against GCU sophomore Martina Lo Pumo with a 6-2; 6-0 victory to propel her into the Round of 32. Sentenac looks to carry over her success as she faces No. 14 Eva Voracek from LMU. Voracek, a fierce competitor out of Germany, reached the Round of 16 in the 2018 Division 1 Championships. 

Freshman Anastasia Goncharova had similar success in her first two matches of the tournament as she bested SDSU freshman Aesha Patel with a two set win of 7-6; 6-0. Goncharova went on to knock out University of San Diego senior Maria Torres. Following her 6-3; 6-3 win against Torres, the freshman shifts her focus to her third round matchup against LMU junior Camila Tumosa.

Goncharova wasn't the only Gaucho freshman that emerged for a successful Day 1. Tiffany Lagarde downed Slovakian junior Alzbeta Houbova from University of Hawaii by a score of 6-2; 6-2. She capped off her first day with of the ITA Regional Championships with a two-set win against USD freshman Maria Tyrina. Tomorrow, Lagarde will face off against No. 9 Savannah Slaysman from ASU.

Junior Amit Lev-Ari, sophomore Elizaveta Volodko, and junior Juliana Valero each came away victorious after round one on Thursday, but suffered tough losses in Round 2 to be eliminated from the singles bracket. Volodko lost to No. 11 ranked Salma Ewing from USC while Valero was dropped by No. 3 sophomore Evgeniya Levashova on Pepperdine. 

The Doubles bracket was quiet for Santa Barbara on Day 1 as two of the three Gaucho pairs had a bye during round one. The pairs team of Lagarde-Valero was in play on Thursday as it dropped a dramatic single set defeat to Long Beach State with an 8-7 loss. 

Lise Sentenac and Amit Lev-Ari plan to take on No. 6 ASU duos team Alicea-Slaysman in Round 2 on Friday as No. 7 Volodko-Goncharova shift their doubles focus to Branstine-Weissmann out of USC. Volodko-Goncharova garnered recognition following a strong tournament at the Cal Fall invitational as the pair won the Doubles bracket.

"Anastasia and [Elizaveta] did so well at Berkeley, we gave them another opportunity to face ranked teams; hopefully they will go far in the tournament" expressed Coach Thibodeau about his promising young tandem. "Amit and Lise, they finished strong last year playing No. 2… we just have six players so it was pretty easy to determine our doubles."

You can follow the Gauchos as they compete over the weekend here on Instagram @ucsbwtennis. You can also follow their Twitter page for updates @UCSBWTennis.