SANTA BARBARA, Calif.- The UC Santa Barbara women's tennis season came to a close in the semifinals of the Big West Conference Championships as they fell to Long Beach State 4-1 on Saturday.
The Gauchos had a great run this year as they finished with a 15-8 record and pulled off tough wins against teams such as Cal Poly, UC Davis and UC Riverside. Not to mention, April Scatliffe and Kiersten Meehan were named All-Big West Team.
Scatliffe, with a 13-16 record at No. 1 Singles, made First Team while Meehan got an honorable mention as her she finished 17-10 at No. 2 singles.
"It was an excellent season as we achieved 15 wins with a young team who truly grew with maturity," UCSB head coach Simon Thibodeau said. "Every player had to step up 2-3 positions higher than they were accustomed to, and each girl adapted very well, with almost every woman obtaining a winning record."
The Gauchos ultimately finished their season with a tough loss to No. 2 seeded Long Beach State, the eventual Big West Champions.
"Overall, I think the season went incredibly well," Kiersten Meehan said. "With such a bittersweet ending, it is tough to remember how well we really did the entire season beforehand. All in all, it definitely surpassed our expectations with losing three seniors and still managing to have an awesome record."
The women were able to climb up the NCAA rankings to No. 61, a record high for the Gauchos in the last 20 years, and finished third in the Big West.
"I think the team definitely stepped up considering all the challenges we faced in the beginning of the season," Senior Erica Cano said. "Not only that, but we far succeeded our own expectations."
The women gained vital experience in building a successful team after competing against some of the top schools in the country, such as Cal, George Washington and San Francisco State.
"This experience will help their confidence tremendously for the seasons to come," coach Thibodeau said. "It was great to finish in the top three of our conference."
After losing three seniors and a coach from last season, the women thought that it would be a rebuilding year, but that was simply not the case. Thibodeau brought a whole new brand of energy and motivation to the team. With a relatively young roster, he was able to shape the women into a well-working unit.
"Simon was definitely one of the biggest reasons for our success because he truly raised our level overall," Meehan said about her coach. "There are definitely some areas we need to work on, especially in doubles, but regardless, I really think that we owe a lot of credit to him because he really upped our physicality and mentality as well as improved our techniques. More importantly, I think he helped make this team more of a family. He is a great coach, person and addition to the team."
Through injuries, lineup changes, and the adjustment to a whole new team, the players performed incredibly well, and even surpassed their own expectations.
"I thought it was great to really evaluate the talent we had on our team before bringing anyone new on board," Thibodeau commented. "Our team chemistry was outstanding all year with student-athletes who really care and have high priorities on their academics and team success and improvement."
The Gauchos' lone senior, Erica Cano, put together her best season ever with a team-best 21-9 record. She flourished under the tutelage of Thibodeau and she could not be happier with her final year in a UCSB uniform.
"Honestly, there is nothing I would change if I could do it over again, the coaching staff and the girls on the team are all I could ask for," Cano revealed. "I really felt that everyone gave it 100%. I feel like this program has a lot of potential, and things will only go up from here. I am excited to be an alumni of such a fabulous program and look forward to watching it grow."
The Gauchos will be returning next season with more experience and greater team chemistry between the players and the staff.
"Even though we didn't win, we know we will be the team to beat in the Big West year after year very soon," Thibodeau said. "This is the mentality we want to install within this UCSB program."
"Next year the Big West title is ours without a doubt," Kiersten Meehan assured.