Gauchos Travel to No. 5 UCLA for 2014 Season Opener, Host University of San Francisco this Sunday

April Scatliffe
April Scatliffe

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. The UC Santa Barbara women's tennis team will begin its dual match campaign tomorrow, Tuesday, January 21st at Pac-12 opponent UCLA. The team will then return home to face off against University of San Francisco this Sunday, January 26th at 11 a.m.

Reaching the semifinal of the Big West Conference Championship last year, UCSB finished off the 2012-2013 season with a solid 15-9 record. In his second year with the program, Head Coach Simon Thibodeau expects another competitive season with this year's squad.

"If we maintain our high level and expect to be sharp with our objectives, we feel we have the players to win the Big West and participate to the NCAA tournament," Coach Thibodeau said. "We have added four new players and only graduated one. I feel we have more depth and it will bring healthy competition among our team."

Aside from the team captains, senior Kiersten Meehan and junior April Scatliffe, UCSB will turn to the new talented additions to help the team reach its goal of winning the Big West. Freshmen Melissa Baker, Kaiulani Boyer and Jaimee Gilbertson will help provide quality depth for the Gauchos. The depth of the team is more important than ever as UCSB will compete against quality programs this season.

"We also have a stronger schedule, which should also make us a better team, giving us more ranking opportunities," Coach Thibodeau stated. Facing off against schools like No. 5 UCLA, No. 61 University of San Diego, No. 45 Washington, No. 38 UC Irvine, No. 65 San Jose State, No. 67 Santa Clara University, No. 56 Fresno State, No. 50 UNLV and No. 42 Long Beach State this season, the mental toughness and continual development of the team will be key during the season.

The start off to the new season will present itself as a challenge as the Gauchos will look to upset the Pac-12 program of UCLA. The Bruins finished last season with a 20-6 record along with a 7-2 conference record in the Pac-12. Headlined by junior Robin Anderson, the Bruins will be a good test for Coach Thibodeau and his squad.  

UCSB will return home and have a couple of days of practice before hosting University of San Francisco on Sunday. The Dons posted a 14-9 record last season to go along with a 4-4 record within the West Coast Conference. The Gauchos will look to avenge last year's 5-2 loss to San Francisco with a win this Sunday.