Moraga, Calif. – A chance to finish atop the 'Singles A' field of play in both the main draw and consolation flights has been earned by the UCSB women's tennis team following day two of the SMC Fall Invitational.
Having played with each other for the first time ever on the tournament's opening day, the No. 3 seeded freshmen tandem of Elizaveta Volodko and Lise Sentenac landed themselves in the main draw's final after an 8-4 victory over the host school's No. 2 seeded pair of Maria Kozyreva and Aubane Ville.
Despite ending the day with no players remaining in the 'Singles A' main draws; the Gauchos made overall improvements which were evident in Head Coach Simon Thibodeau's perspective.
"We went 4-3 on the day. The wins were great and we fought hard or simply outplayed our opponents. We had few losses in which we left opportunities on the court, and had few regrets afterwards," he explained.
Santa Barbara's two doubles pairs were also spread throughout the 'Singles A' competition. Lev Ari entered Saturday as the only Gaucho remaining in the main draws bracket and was matched up against No. 2 seed Anna Bright, who was the No. 2 recruit in the nation last spring according to tennisrecruiting.net upon her arrival at the University of California.
Lev Ari managed to avoid being blanked within the two sets she played, but it would not be enough as the sophomore was bested 6-1, 6-1.
Although none of its players are no longer in contention within the 'Singles A' main draws pool, Santa Barbara did manage to find some success in the consolation rounds.
After being upset in the invite's opening day, No. 1 seeded Volodko bounced back in her first round consolation meeting against Saint Mary's of California's Vanessa Nommensen.
The first-year Gaucho was determined in her first opportunity back on the court, winning the first set straight through with a 6-0 shutout. Still, Nommensen did not allow the lost set to derail her performance throughout the rest of the match. She nearly pushed things to a third leg but was outpaced by Volodko for the win as the UCSB freshman won the second, 6-4, to seal the match in back-to-back sets.
As a result of the tournament's format, which granted first round winners a second round bye, Volodko had some quick time off prior to taking on San Francisco University's Mya Bui in the quarterfinals hours later. Volodko's momentum did not decline one bit as she sustained her ability to dominate opponents early, blanking Bui in the first set 6-0.
Her consistency carried over into the next set as she nearly achieved the Gauchos' first straight-sets victory of the weekend but concluded with a 6-2 second set victory to secure her spot in the consolation semifinals.
Also making a consolation debut for UCSB was Sentenac, who faced Sacramento State's Maria Gonzalez in the first round. The duel between the pair of freshmen fell nothing short of an intense battle as it ended with Sentenac being the only Gaucho player to play a full three sets or tiebreaker on the day.
The two traded points back and forth, but when it was all said and done, it was Gonzalez who tallied the win in the first set, 6-3.
Even when playing from behind, Sentenac remained disciplined with her play and responded with consecutive victories in the final two sets. She took the second at a score of 6-2 before playing in a tiebreaker in the last set. Both players put on a competitive tiebreaker finale as Sentenac had just enough to end the set and match with a 1-0(6) win.
Advancing to the quarterfinals after her first round win and a second round bye, Sentenac's next opponent was UC Davis' Lani-Rae Green. It was a battle between the Gaucho freshman's collegiate inexperience and the Aggie senior's experience.
More specifically, it was Green's ability to close out matches that resulted in the outcome working in her favor with a 6-4; 6-2 victory over Sentenac.
Rounding out UCSB's participation in the consolation rounds was junior Stephanie Yamada. An early first round exit concluded Saturday's competition for Yamada, who was beat 6-2; 6-1 by University of Pacific's Maayan Sela.
With both of its doubles teams in the finals and Volodko in the consolation semifinals, the Gauchos are potentially en route to a successful ending at the SMC Fall Invitational.
"[Today was encouraging considering] that it was the second day of our first fall tournament. We are looking to finish strong tomorrow," Thibodeau said.
Amit Lev Ari and Stephanie Yamada will play in the 'Doubles A' consolation final at both the same time and date. Following her participation in doubles competition, Volodko will then play in the 'Singles A' consolation semifinals at 10 a.m., according to the SMC Fall Invitational schedule on USTA.com.