Women’s tennis rounds out road trip at UCSB

The Trojans head into this weekend’s match looking to bounce back against the Santa Barbara Gauchos and defend their No. 14 preaseason ranking. (Daniel Park)

The No. 24 women’s tennis team will hit the road this weekend to take on UC Santa Barbara as they look to avenge last season’s loss.

The Trojans enter this weekend’s dual following a 6-1 loss to No. 1 Texas last Saturday. The Trojans’ lone point in the contest came on court one from No. 2-ranked freshman Madison Sieg, who defeated Nicole Khirin in three sets. 

“It was definitely a tough match for us,” Sieg said. “We went in wanting to do better, I think, but all of us came out with a new motivation to do even better, to work even harder.”

However, the Trojans were able to keep the match closer than the scoreboard indicated.

“Of course, any time we play a team ranked No. 1 in the country, we want to show exactly what we can do. I think there were some courts we were able to do that on, some courts we were really close on … and we’re excited about that,” said Head Coach Alison Swain. “I think we are also really hungry to play another match against a ranked opponent to really show what we can do.”

Now, the Trojans will look to generate momentum in their match against the Guanchos after going 1-2 over the past two weekends — including a loss against unranked Notre Dame in the ITA Kickoff tournament in Georgia.

“One of our big goals this year is to have a better record in doubles so we can go into more of our [singles] matches with that doubles point in hand,” Swain said. “I don’t think a lot has to change here, we are on the right path and we just are ready for more matches, more opportunities and to take advantage of those opportunities.”

The Trojans are looking to double down on the details to capitalize on their chances moving forward.

“Every single time we are out there we play really close, no matter what the score is,” Sieg said. “We are just really paying attention to working hard and figuring those small things out.”

The Trojans’ match in Santa Barbara will be their last dual in a four-match road trip before they return to home court. 

“It’s part of what we do. It’s good for us to get out on the road,”  Swain said. “I think our team, both getting to play at home which is really comfortable for us, and facing some adversity on the road, it’s all really important to prepare for postseason play.”

The Gauchos are 1-3 so far this season and enter the dual riding a three-game losing streak that includes losses to No. 12 UC BerkeleyCal, No. 15 Auburn and No. 19 Arizona State. The last time the Trojans faced the Gauchos, they fell in a surprise home loss.

“We love redemption matches. I think girls are really focused on this weekend,” Swain said. “We are focusing on being physical on court and taking charge of the big moments and big points to build momentum, both individually on our courts and as a team. ” 

The Trojans’ match against Santa Barbara is one of their last matches before they begin Pac-12 play, with Washington State coming up for a March 3 match on the road. The Trojans are 5-2 so far this season.

“The mentality going into Pac-12 season is let’s take advantage of each match and stay in the moment of the match we’re playing,” Swain said. “Not getting ahead of ourselves, not having a weekend where we are playing somebody and we are looking ahead to playing the higher-ranked team.”

Still, the Trojans remain undaunted by the matches ahead.

“We are really trying to just grow our confidence,” Sieg said. “We know that we have a tough schedule ahead of us, but we also know that we are more than capable of handling it.”

The Trojans will face the Gauchos Sunday at 12 p.m. at Arnhold Tennis Center in Santa Barbara.