Santa Barbara Awaits USC with Chance at Four Straight

Stephanie Yamada (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Stephanie Yamada (Photo by Tony Mastres)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.- Following three consecutive wins, the UC Santa Barbara Women's Tennis team will host the USC Trojans on Saturday, February 16, at 12 p.m. on the UCSB Rec Cen Courts.

The 3-1 Gauchos have been on a tear lately and look to keep it rolling against the Trojans who also boast a 3-1 dual match record. USC previosuly won three in a row before it suffered a 4-3 away loss to SMU last Saturday, February 9.

"USC is a very good team and they're very well coached," said Head Coach Simon Thibodeau. "We are ready for that challenge and this is what we want on our schedule… Our players match up well with theirs, and we think we can come away with a big win."

Conversely, the 'Chos are coming off two home wins to hand Nevada its first loss of the season and knock off Saint Mary's with an Amit Lev Ari clincher.

SB intends to keep it rolling behind Captain Stephanie Yamada who secured her second career Big West Conference Athlete of the Week honors after an undefeated performance in both singles and doubles over the two-game home span.

Lev Ari also thrived over the weekend with two singles wins on court three accompanied by a doubles victory alongside freshman Tiffany Lagarde against Nevada to deliver a critical doubles point for the Gauchos.

The Trojans enter in with two nationally ranked singles players spearheaded by No. 24 freshman Salma Ewing and No. 86 freshman Danielle Willson.

"Salma [Ewing] stands out for USC because of her big results, but besides that, we believe it's pretty even," added Thibodeau. "They're a bit like Florida, but we can battle at home. If we clean up our mistakes, we will take this one."

Ewing will most likely face-off against Lagarde who made her Gaucho debut last weekend with a two-set sweep on court one to clinch a win against Nevada.

In doubles, SC sports the No. 18 pair in the country as Angela Kulikov teams up with Rianna Valdes for a 12-3 overall doubles record this season, however the pair hasn't seen action since opening weekend when they notched a 6-1 win against South Carolina.

As of late, Constance Branstine and Becca Weissmann have gotten the start from court one and will likely take on Yamada-Volodko for UCSB who has received the nod on court one in the past three matches this season after Dominika Paterova went down with a knee injury against No. 22 Florida during ITA Kick-Off weekend.

Watch Stephanie Yamada dig into the Gauchos first week at home and look ahead to the match against USC this weekend here:

Catch the Gauchos in action on Saturday, Feb. 16 for a 12 p.m. first-serve as they take on USC at home on the UCSB Rec Cen Courts.