SANTA BARBARA, Calif.- As the sole undefeated Big West team in conference matches, the UC Santa Barbara Women's Tennis team continues its 4-match road trip with a meeting against UC Riverside on Thursday, April 4, at 11 a.m. before traveling to University of Hawai'i on Saturday, April 6, at 1 p.m.
The Gauchos remain in first place in the Big West standings with an overall 8-6 dual match record including two conference wins and zero losses.
Amit Lev Ari spearheads the Gauchos' charge at 9-3 in dual match singles play and just made the jump to singles one with a win over LBSU's Wiktoria Rutkowska.
"Amit has improved since the moment she got here," said head Coach Simon Thibodeau. "Her game is very reliable and she's very consistent. Amit makes good decisions and is mentally focused. Combined that with a good GPA and it's no question why she was awarded our Player of Winter Quarter."
In doubles, Tiffany Lagarde and Stephanie Yamada have regained their position on court one and are 4-1 in dual match doubles. Lagarde was nominated for Big West Athlete of the week following an undefeated weekend against No. 8 UCLA and Long Beach State.
Although UCSB has six losses this season, their schedule is peppered with matches against the best programs in the country as five of their six losses have come against top-25 teams.
Riverside is coming off of a two-match win streak, but hasn't played since March 15. The Highlanders are currently in last place of the Big West with a 5-8 overall record with zero wins and three losses against conference teams.
Furthermore, the Highlanders as a whole have a 6-39 singles record against Big West opponents while two of UCR's five wins have come against NAIA opponents.
Tia Elpusan is the heartbeat of the Riverside lineup with the most wins among any Highlander in both singles and doubles. The sophomore has an 11-11 singles record with the majority of her matches coming from court two.
Elpusan teams up with junior Sara Khattab in doubles and splits matches on both courts one and two. The pair is 9-10 from the first spot, but improves to 4-1 in the two-hole.
Hawai'i, on the other hand, is 3-2 in conference matches, but 6-9 in overall dual match play. Yet, while Riverside hasn't played any significant competition this year, Hawai'i is much like UCSB in which it has overloaded its schedule with high-level opponents such as No. 11 USC, No. 15 Washington, No. 19 Cal, and No. 5 Stanford.
"Hawai'i is a great team, but we lost some players and so did they so it won't be the same matchup," said Thibodeau. "We're looking to get back to the Big West Championship and whether we meet [Hawai'i] there or not, we're just looking for one win at a time."
Jun Hernandez, two-time reigning Big West Conference Coach of the Year, will be in a chess match with UCSB's Thibodeau and the Gauchos who are the reigning Big West Conference regular season champions.
The last time these two teams met, Hawai'i upset the Gauchos in the semifinals of the Big West Tournament en route to its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament as a member of the Big West.
In both of the years prior, UCSB knocked off the Rainbow Wahine in the Tournament Finals, so with Hernandez at the helm and returning Big West Player of the Year Petra Melounova looking to remain on top, Saturday's match is likely the most anticipated Big West Conference meeting of the year.
UC Santa Barbara Women's Tennis travels to Riverside, Calif. on Thursday, April 5, at 11 a.m. to take on UCR before catching a flight to Hawai'i to play the Rainbow Wahine on Saturday, April 6, at 1 p.m.