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A Look Back At The 2016 Tennis Season

6/14/2016

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2016 Final Tennis Release


UC Santa Barbara won both the Big West men's and women's tournament titles, and Gaucho tandem Palina Dubavets and Stefani Stojic reached the round of 16 in the NCAA Doubles Championships, highlighting a commendable 2016 tennis campaign.

BIG WEST YEAR IN REVIEW

UC Santa Barbara Women Capture First Title In 20 Years
UC Santa Barbara won the program’s first conference tournament title in 20 years after a three-day string of victories against UC Davis, CSUN and Hawai‘i at Indian Wells Tennis Garden.  Fourth-year women’s head coach Simon Thibodeau guided the Gauchos to the title for the first time since 1996, which culminated a six-year string of championships.  Junior Jaimee Gilbertson earned the clinching point with a 7-5, 6-4 victory at No. 4 singles against UH counterpart Roxanne Resma.

The No. 2 seed Gauchos disrupted a run of dominance by top-seeded Long Beach State, which had won five consecutive and 11 of the previous 12 tournaments contested in Indian Wells.  Hawai‘i handed the Beach a 4-3 loss in the semifinals, which kept LBSU out of the championship match for the first time since 2000, a span of 15 straight finals appearances.

UCSB overcame the disappointment of losing in the finals of the 2015 tournament to LBSU.  The Gauchos finished with a national ranking of No. 56 in the final Oracle/Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll and an overall record of 19-8.  The 19 victories tie for the seventh-most in Big West single-season history in the round-robin era, which began in 2006.

Gaucho Women Make Further History
In winning the Big West Tournament, UC Santa Barbara captured the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.  The Gauchos landed in the NCAA’s for the first time since 1996, and the third time overall.  UCSB proceeded to win the program’s first NCAA Tournament match, taking down 32nd-ranked Kansas, 4-3, in the first round. 

The epic match against the Wildcats came down to No. 5 singles, where sophomore Amanda Atanasson was locked in a battle against Maria Jose Cardona.  All three sets went to tiebreakers.  In the third set, Atanasson found herself staring at a 5-2 deficit, but she fought back to even the score at 5-5.  Ultimately, Atanasson defeated Jose Cardona by scores of 7-6 (5), 6-7 (0), 7-6 (8) to send the Gauchos into the second round against tournament top seed and regional host California.  UCSB’s season ended there in a 4-0 loss to the Golden Bears, but not before the Gauchos made program history.

Dubavets, Stojic Make Imprint On Doubles Championship
Two of the key components of UCSB’s emergence in 2016 were Division I transfers Palina Dubavets (TCU) and Stefani Stojic (Florida).  The two immediately found spots at the top of the singles ladder, and formed one of the top doubles partnerships in the nation.  The pairing rose to as high as No. 10 in the country before finishing at No. 23 in the Oracle/ITA doubles rankings.  Selected to the NCAA Doubles Championship, the first Gaucho duo in 20 years to participate, Dubavets and Stojic won their first round match with a convincing 6-1, 6-2 triumph over DePaul’s Yulia Shupenia and Rebeca Mitrea.  They then nearly pulled off a mammoth upset of the top-seeded team in the draw, North Carolina’s Whitney Kay and Hayley Carter, losing 4-6, 6-4, 10-7 in the round of 16.

Long Beach State Continues Title Tradition
Long Beach State won its ninth Big West regular season women’s title in 11 years, finishing undefeated at 8-0.  The 49ers have had an unblemished conference slate in eight of those nine title-clinching seasons.

Since the Big West instituted a round-robin schedule in 2006, the 49ers have compiled a gaudy 84-3 (.966) conference record over that stretch.  In going 8-0 this year, LBSU has reeled off 28 consecutive wins in Big West regular season contests.  LBSU has not lost a regular season match to a league opponent since Mar. 2, 2013.

The program has won 18 or more matches for nine consecutive years, and possesses 10 of the 13 winningest seasons in Big West history.

Matias Spearheads Titan Turnaround
In three seasons, Cal State Fullerton head coach Dianne Matias has taken the program from eight, to 10, to a school record 17 victories.  The Titans finished 17-6 this season, including additional program records for Big West victories (6) and conference finish (3rd).  CSF claimed its highest tournament seed – third – in school history as well.

Utilizing a young roster with no seniors and three freshmen among the top six in the singles lineup, Matias molded the Titans into a nationally ranked squad, as they reached No. 67 for one week (March 8) in the Oracle/ITA Women’s Tennis rankings.  The doubles tandem of Camille DeLeon and Alexis Valenzuela finished No. 56 in the Oracle/ITA rankings.  Among the team’s victories, the Titans extinguished a 20-match losing streak to UC Irvine which dated back to 2000, and halted a 29-match losing streak to San Diego State that had lasted since 1981.

Hawai‘i Wins Monumental Match
Underlying the developing depth of teams, Hawai‘i reached the Big West Tournament finals for the first time in school history.  To reach that point, the Rainbow Wahine needed to go through five-time defending champion Long Beach State in the semifinals.

And go through they did.  UH pulled off the 4-3 victory, denying LBSU a place in the finals for the first time since 2000.  The match hinged on a battle at No. 1 singles involving the two players who have combined for the last three Big West Player of the Year awards – LBSU’s Maeva Razakasoa (2014, 2016) and UH’s Cindy Nguyen (2015).  Nguyen outdueled Razakasoa for the 6-3, 6-3 victory to give the program its second win over a ranked opponent on the season.

UC Santa Barbara Men Churn Out Another Trophy
Indian Wells Tennis Garden is “Championship Central” for the UC Santa Barbara men’s tennis program.  Under head coach Marty Davis, the Gauchos racked up their seventh title in 13 years at the desert-based facility, their ninth during his tenure and the program’s 10th overall.

The Gauchos became the first top seed in four years to claim the title as they mowed down UC Irvine and No. 68 Cal Poly, capitalizing on an impressive run through the Big West regular season.  UCSB earned the top seed in the tournament thanks to an undefeated league record in which the team lost only four points in the five matches.

UCSB finished 17-7 overall, tallying the most victories since Davis took over the program in 2000 and the most since the 1997 squad had 19 wins.  The Gauchos made their ninth NCAA Tournament appearance under Davis, the program’s 12th overall, and gave No. 32 Georgia Tech all it could handle in the first round before falling by a 4-2 score.

UCSB defeated six non-conference ranked opponents in 2016, including No. 63 Washington, No. 37 Louisville, No. 43 Pepperdine, No. 69 Arizona, No. 38 San Diego State and No. 47 Denver.

UC Davis Goes Undefeated At Home For Second Straight Season
For the second straight season, UC Davis was unbeaten at the Marya Welch Tennis Center.  The Aggies posted a 10-0 record on their home court, following up an 8-0 mark in 2015.  The streak began on Apr. 5, 2014 following a 4-3 victory over Air Force.  UC Davis has not dropped a match at home since losing 4-3 to Hawai‘i on Apr. 1, 2014.

Aggies Break School Division I Record For Victories Again
UC Davis set another men’s program standard for single-season victories with 17 in 2016.  The Aggies eclipsed the previous record of 16, which was just set in 2015.  Since seizing control of the program three years ago and leading the Aggies to their first winning season (14-11), head coach Eric Steidlmayer has amassed a 47-24 record.  The 17 wins is tied for the third-most in Big West single-season history.  That total is also the most for the UC Davis program in a quarter century (18-5 in 1991).  Included in the Aggie 17-7 record was a 12-match winning streak that lasted from the end of January through the beginning of April.

Double Dip
UC Santa Barbara is the first school since UC Irvine in 2010 to have both its men’s and women’s programs win their respective tournaments in the same year.

Spreading The Success Around
UC Santa Barbara became the fourth different program in four years to claim the men’s regular season title – either shared or outright.  The Gauchos joined UC Irvine and UC Davis (2015), Hawai‘i (2014), and Cal Poly and UC Irvine (2013) atop the standings.  UCSB also was the first program since Cal Poly in 2012 to finish 5-0 in conference play.

UC Riverside Establishes New Standard For Division I Wins
First-year head coach Mattias Johansson made a meaningful impact for the UC Riverside men’s program in 2016.  He led the Highlanders to a Division I record 13 victories, the most since UCR joined the Big West in 2002.  The previous record was 10 in 2007.  The Highlanders enjoyed a stretch in which they won 10 of 13 matches.

Razakasoa, Adamson Represent Big West In Singles Tourney
Two nationally ranked juniors represented the Big West in the NCAA Singles Championships as Alec Adamson of UC Davis and Maeva Razakasoa competed in their respective 64-player brackets at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Razakasoa gave the Big West a participant in the women’s singles event for the fifth straight year.  She was the first 49er to compete since Anais Dallara in 2012, and the fifth in program history.  Razakasoa, the two-time Big West Player of the Year (2014, 2016), lost in the first round to the 13th-ranked player in the nation, Jasmine Lee of Mississippi State, 6-2, 6-3.  Razakasoa ended the year with a No. 100 ranking in the final Oracle/ITA poll.

Adamson became the first Aggie to participate in the national men’s singles tournament.  He competed valiantly against Northwestern’s Sam Shropshire, the No. 40-ranked player in the nation, and came up just short in a 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-5 battle.  He actually led 5-4 in the third set before Shropshire rallied to win the next three games.

Overcoming an 0-6 start in dual match play, Adamson won seven straight and 11 of his next 12.  He concluded the season ranked No. 108 by the ITA.  Adamson achieved a ranking as high as No. 38 earlier in the year.

Rankings Galore
In addition to Dubavets and Stojic of UCSB, LBSU’s Razakasoa, and Adamson of UC Davis, a handful of Big West players received mention in the national singles and doubles rankings.  UC Irvine sophomore Sebastian Heim was No. 122 in men’s singles.  Two men’s tandems – UC Santa Barbara’s Miles Seemann and Nathan Eshmade (No. 52) and Cal Poly’s Corey Pang and Ben Donovan (No. 85) – earned doubles recognition. 

On the women’s doubles side, two teams joined Dubavets and Stojic among the nationally ranked.  Laura Eales and Hayley Thompson of Long Beach State were ranked No. 37 overall, while Cal State Fullerton’s Alexis Valenzuela and Camille DeLeon were No. 56.