Jan. 24, 2007
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The 2007 UC Santa Barbara women's tennis team will have just one regular returning to its lineup, having lost its No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 5 and No. 6 singles players to graduation. So, obviously things are looking down, right? Wrong.
Although junior Charlotte Scatliffe is the only returnee who was a regular part of the singles lineup last season, the Gauchos have the potential to be stronger than they were in 2006. Freshmen Carina Bjornstrom (Espoo, Finland/Brando Gymnasium), Tova Hausman (Los Angeles, Calif./Beverly Hills HS) and Asagi Onaga (El Segundo, Calif./El Segundo HS), and junior transfer Marta Simic (Belgrade, Serbia/Broward Community College) will be thrown into the mix of returnees to give UCSB a formidable lineup.
Bjornstrom, who climbed as high as No. 3 in her native Finland, will likely enter the season as the regular at No. 1. She had an outstanding fall, winning a pair of invitational titles, and at 6-foot, she is an imposing presence on the court.
"She has a huge serve and an overhead that will scare people," said Gaucho head coach Pete Kirkwood. "Carina possesses beautiful racket-head speed through the ball and on her ground strokes and her top spin is as heavy as I have ever seen."
Simic is expected to fill the No. 2 spot for Santa Barbara. She had tremendous two-year run at Broward Community College in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which culminated in her winning the 2006 National Junior College singles and doubles championships and her team winning the NJCAA team title.
"Marta is another hard hitter who likes to strike first," Kirkwood began. "She has great hands around the net and can hit any shot from anywhere. Her experience at the junior college level is a big plus. I expect big things from her."
Scatliffe, the regular at No. 4 as a sophomore in 2006, will get the nod at No. 3 in 2007. A First Team All-Big West choice as a doubles player last season, Kirkwood believes that she is ready to take the next step in singles as well.
"Charlotte is our only returning starter and she will move from No. 4 to No. 3," he said. "She had a very impressive fall and she is gaining the same confidence in singles that she has in doubles. That is very important."
Scatliffe will also team with Simic to give UCSB a potent No. 1 doubles team. The Scatliffe-Simic duo will open the season ranked 38th in the nation.
The No. 4 and No. 5 spots in the singles lineup will likely be occupied by freshmen to open the 2007 campaign. Hausman is penciled in at No. 4 and Onaga at No. 5.
"Tova will start the year at No. 4 but has the game, especially the forehand, to move up higher once she has more experience at this level," Kirkwood assessed. "Asagi is going to be a very solid No. 5 player. She has very aggressive ground strokes and plays with an energy level not matched by many."
"Brittany snuck into the No. 6 spot at the end of last season, just in time for the Big West Tournament," Kirkwood recalled. "She will be pushed by Kristen, who will also be playing a lot of doubles."
At the outset of the season, the No. 2 doubles team will be an all-freshman squad with Bjornstrom and Hausman. No. 3 doubles will likely be Onaga and either Wilson or Kausen.
Kirkwood also believes that the drastic change in personnel will not be the only drastic change for UCSB in 2007.
"Not only do we have new faces this year, we will also play a different style," he said. "This year's Gaucho team is filled with big servers and hard hitters who will dictate play. Although there will not be as much grinding it out this year, make no mistake, we will be able to outlast our opponents whenever we need to."