Gauchos Travel to Malibu for NCAA Regional Showdown With UCLA Friday

Natalie Da Silveira (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Natalie Da Silveira (Photo by Tony Mastres)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – No. 47 UC Santa Barbara will play No. 23 UCLA in the first round of the 2017 NCAA Women's Tennis Championship at 10:00 a.m. on Friday at the Ralphs-Straus Tennis Center on the Pepperdine campus in Malibu. 

The Gauchos will enter the match against the Bruins with a record of 17-9-1 and a 10-match winning streak. They are coming off of an exceptional performance in the Big West Tournament where they beat Cal Poly (4-0), Long Beach State (4-1) and top-seeded Hawai'i (4-1). This is Santa Barbara's second straight bid to the NCAA Tournament after 20 year absence.

"Since the Big West Championships, we have trained more specifically," said head coach Simon Thibodeau. "The team is confident and excited after the success that we've had recently." 

The Gauchos have played one of their most difficult schedules in school history. Losses to Texas Tech (No. 7), Pepperdine (No. 12), South Carolina (No. 14), UCLA (No. 23), USC (No. 25), Washington (No. 31), Oregon (No. 35) and Harvard (No. 48), were against teams that are currently ranked in the nation's top-50 and their only other loss came against Hawai'i and they avenged that in the conference championship match. 

UCSB is led by junior Palina Dubavets, a First Team All-Big West player, who will play No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles. She enters the postseason with a 9-9 record in dual singles matches and 16-7 in doubles matches. Dubavets has been paired with Stefani Stojic (9-4) and Melissa Baker (7-4) in doubles. She and Baker are ranked 51st nationally while she and Stojic are ranked 66th

Second Team All-Big West choices Natalie Da Silveira and Jaimee Gilbertson will likely play No. 2 and No. 3 singles. Da Silveira is 5-10 in dual matches, including 4-7 at No. 2. Gilbertson has gone 13-8, including 2-5 at No. 2 and 11-3 at No. 3. Stojic has gone 10-6 in singles matches this season, all in the No. 4 slot. Amanda Atanasson is 14-7, including 11-5 at No. 5. Baker is 7-7, including 6-3 at No. 6. 

On Feb. 4, the Gauchos dropped a 4-0 decision to UCLA on the Westwood campus. Baker and Stephanie Yamada, which are ranked No. 75 in the ITA doubles rankings, posted a 6-3 win over Terri Fleming and Alaina Miller at No. 2 doubles, and the three unfinished singles matches were tight, but the Bruins, ranked No. 20 at the time, prevailed. 

UCLA enters the NCAA Tournament with a 13-8 overall record. Most recently, the Bruins fell to Oregon in the Pac 12 Tournament by a score of 4-3. They have lost three consecutive matches. In addition to their loss to Oregon, they have fallen to USC and Arizona State, a team UCSB defeated 4-3 on Feb. 12. 

UCLA is led by Ena Shibahara who is ranked No. 5 in the current ITA singles rankings. The Bruins also have three doubles teams ranked among the top-60. Shibahara and Jada Hart are the highest ranked duo at No. 12. 

"We know how tough UCLA can be," Thibodeau said. "We know the players pretty well and played them a few times this year. They beat us during the regular season, so we're going to Malibu with no pressure and will try to do better than last time. It will be a very challenging match and I hope we get fueled and energized with the opposition that UCLA will present us."

The winner of the UCSB-UCLA match will play the winner of a match between Pepperdine and LIU Brooklyn which will be played at 1:00 p.m. on Friday. The second round match will be played at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday.