Gauchos Travel to Malibu for NCAA Regional Showdown with Stanford Friday

Photo by Robert Huskey
Photo by Robert Huskey

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara is set to take on No. 28 Stanford in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Women's Tennis Championship. The match is scheduled for Friday at the Ralphs-Straus Tennis Center on the campus of Pepperdine in Malibu. Start time is TBA.

The Gauchos will enter the match against the Cardinals with a stellar 13-3 overall record and a perfect 11-0 record against Big West opponents. Santa Barbara will look to build on their dominant performance in the Big West Championships, in which they defeated UC Riverside, Hawai'i, and Cal Poly, each by a score of 4-0, not surrendering a single point throughout the tournament. The Gauchos return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2017 on a 12-match win streak, the program's longest over the last 25 years.

UCSB has received well-balanced contributions from its players all season. Santa Barbara is led by junior Shakhnoza Khatamova, currently ranked No. 108 in singles after going 15-2 in singles and 8-5 in doubles and twice earning Big West Athlete of the Week honors.

Senior Elizaveta Volodko was also integral to the Gauchos' success this season, going 9-4 at No. 1 singles and 7-7 in doubles. Camille Kiss was a breakout freshman star, going 10-4 overall in No. 2 singles and 10-2 in doubles. Volodko and Kiss each had a Big West Athlete of the Week selection themselves.

Senior Lise Sentenac and freshmen Marta Gonzalez-Ballbe and Kira Reuter, who each had successful seasons of their own, round out the Gauchos' squad.

On March 24, the Gauchos dropped a 7-0 decision to Stanford in Palo Alto. The Gauchos battled in doubles, with Sentenac and Volodko pushing Stanford's Michaela Gordon and Niluka Madurawe but eventually falling 7-5. Gonzalez-Ballbe and Kiss were tied up with Sara Choy and Emma Higuchi at 6-6 when the match moved to the singles portion. The Cardinals went on to win each of the singles matchups.

Stanford is the most decorated program in college history, having won 20 NCAA championships. They enter the NCAA Tournament with a 14-4 overall record and having won four of their last five matches. Most recently, they fell 4-1 to No. 23 California in the PAC-12 semi-final.

The Cardinals are led by Gordon who is ranked No. 46 in the most recent ITA rankings, as well as No. 118 Angelica Blake.

The winner of the UCSB-Stanford match will play the winner of a match between Pepperdine and Northern Arizona. Date and time of that match is TBA.