Moraga, Calif. – It was an impressive finish for the UCSB women's tennis team in day three of the SMC Fall Invitational, beginning with the doubles pair of Amit Lev Ari and Stephanie Yamada, who capped off the invite as victors of its 'Doubles A' consolation bracket. After winning by default in the consolation semifinals, the Gauchos' duo closed out the finals round with an 8-4 defeat of the University of Eastern Washington's Rylee Braeden and Janaya Smith.
"The competition was a little tricky because they had good hands, so we tried to keep them solid and I think we did quite well," Lev Ari said. "We had few games in which we lost focus but we got back at it and played well to win 8-4. It was exciting because it was my first fall tournament. It was a good environment, good matches, and a good experience for us. I feel like I had fun."
Also adding to the Gauchos' success was freshman Elizaveta Volodko as she paved her way through the 'Singles A' consolation pool with wins in both the semifinal and final rounds.
At the young age of 17 years old, having arrived at UCSB two weeks ago, finishing her first college tournament with a combined singles and doubles record of 7-2 along with two finals appearances, Volodko proved that she is capable of being an impact player that UCSB can depend on.
"I tried to [only] concentrate on this last match only. [Fortunately] I didn't lose and looked for easy points. There wasn't pressure [being the No. 1 seed]. I was a little bit nervous [opening day] because it was my first college match," Volodko said. "After the loss [opening day], I understood that it wasn't going to be enough to only win the next match in the evening before the next two days. I continued to think about what I could do to make [positive] changes in my mind and in my game, and it really helped me to win the final."
Nearly matching Lev Ari and Yamada's finals victory within the 'Doubles A' main draws were freshmen partners Elizaveta Volodko and Lise Sentenac. An all-freshmen showdown consisting of much talent took place as the Gauchos' No. 3 seeded duo faced the tournament's No. 1 doubles pair, Anna Bright and Vivian Glozman, who are both top-10 recruits for the University of California program.
UCSB's pair fared well against Cal's tandem but was eventually outplayed, finishing as the tournament's runner-up following an 8-4 loss.
"I think it was a great accomplishment to make it to the final in doubles play of the main draws. I think they had a great chance against Cal. Even though the score was 8-4, it was really a closer game than shown in which they [Volodko and Sentenac] had chances," Head Coach Simon Thibodeau said.
Despite the loss in doubles play, Volodko continued her day by staying in the championship hunt in her consolation singles matchups. Her quest began with a semifinals meeting against San Jose State's Miyo Kobayashi.
Upon entering the match, Volodko had yet to lose a set in consolation play. Nonetheless, she remained consistent by jumping ahead to take the lead after a 6-3 victory in the first set. There was no slowing down the first-year Gaucho as she went on to defeat Kobayashi in consecutive sets, winning the second 6-4, while also clinching a finals appearance.
Volodko was met by UC Davis' Lani-Rae Green in the consolation championship. The matchup resulted in a highly competitive performance by both as it took three sets for a winner to emerge. This was evident from the match's start as Volodko made a dominant statement with a 6-1 win of the first set.
With a chance to win in back-to-back sets again, Volodko was unable to secure the match win as Green responded with a 7-5 win in the second.
The final was Volodko's first tiebreaker match in the 'Singles A' consolation flight. In spite of having yet to play a full three sets, Volodko overcame such circumstances and came up clutch for a 1-0(6) win to close out the championship matchup.
UCSB's stint in singles play continued with Lev Ari, Yamada, and Sentenac competing in Sunday's extra 'A' singles consolation. Lev Ari faced UC Davis' Nikita Pradeep, and managed to sustain her momentous play with a 6-3; 6-0. win in the opening set. A chance at neither of the partners losing for the day came down to Yamada facing Saint Mary's Aubane Ville. She held up on her end, finishing with a 6-4; 6-2 victory over Ville. Meanwhile, Sentenac was tasked with taking on UC Davis' Kristina Breisacher, who was responsible for upsetting Volodko in the Round of 32 on opening day. The UCSB freshman avoided a loss with a 7-5; 6-2 win.
While it will continue to make various improvements beyond its performance in the SMC Fall Invitational, Santa Barbara put together an encouraging 13-9 finish in its first tournament of the fall. More specifically, the collegiate debuts of Elizaveta Volodko and Lise Sentenac were quite promising considering the amount of time that lies ahead for them to get better.
UCSB will be back in action at the ITA West Regional Championships from Thursday, Oct. 19- Monday, Oct. 23. Times are to be announced.