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UCSB Women’s Tennis Beats USC for First Time Since 1994

For the first time since 1994, the UC Santa Barbara women's tennis program defeated the University of Southern California.

The Gauchos achieved such a feat with their 6-1 win over the Trojans on Saturday. UCSB now sits at 1-1 following its season opening weekend.

"I'm really proud of the whole team. We walked on the court with a goal in mind and we all fought hard, senior Natalie Da Silveira said. "It felt like we were a little army on the court. Every single person was cheerful and supportive of one another. We all had a positive, fighting spirit and that makes a huge difference with everyone on top of their game."

While UCSB's rout of the Trojans may seem like it easily came about, the Gauchos were actually first to lose during doubles play.

In this match, Head Coach Simon Thibodeau tried a new doubles pair in freshman Elizaveta Volodko and sophomore Amit Lev Ari. They faced USC's Gabby Smith and Becca Weissmann on court No. 2, where they were defeated 6-3.

Making up for the early loss was the Gaucho tandem of junior Stephanie Yamada and senior Amanda Atanasson, who faced off against the Trojans' Madison Westby and Constance Branstine. Yamada and Atanasson managed to earn their second-straight doubles win with a 6-3 victory.

It was a stellar season-opening weekend for Yamada, who won all of her matches in both singles and doubles play. She entered Saturday's match against USC having not lost a set.

"I am absolutely overjoyed with our win against USC today, especially after losing such a close tough match to UCLA yesterday," Yamada said. "There was such high energy everywhere from every Gaucho in each match, even from our spectators in the stands, and it was just extremely motivating to be out there fighting for the win."

Following suit were seniors Palina Dubavets and Natalie Da Silveira, as they too earned their second consecutive win alongside each other after beating USC's Rianna Valdes and Angela Kulikov 6-3. The win on court No. 1 secured the doubles point for UCSB, giving it a 1-0 lead over the Trojans.

Similar to Friday's loss to UCLA, the Gauchos had been in this position before, entering singles play with the lead.

But this time around was different as UC Santa Barbara ended up being the force to dominate rather than be dominated, winning three consecutive matches before losing.

After an "unfinished" ruling prevented her from potentially winning her first regular season singles match, Volodko displayed the same competitiveness in her one-on-one matchup against USC's Valdes.

This time around there was nothing to end the freshman's run as she earned her first singles victory in back-to-back sets 6-3, 6-3.

Sustaining Santa Barbara's winning stretch was Atanasson, who nearly blanked Westby in the first set of their contest with a 6-1 win. The following set consisted of more of a challenge but ultimately ended with Atanasson winning 7-5 to give UCSB a 3-0 lead.

Da Silveira carried the momentum as well, earning a 6-2, 7-5 win over the Trojans' Weissmann to clinch the win for the Gauchos.

The fourth-year player performed well on the day, winning each of her matches in both singles and doubles play.

"I walked on the court thinking 'I'm just going to play my game,' Da Silveira said. "I didn't really know my opponent too well but my plan was to stay solid and be aggressive. I was happy and proud of my composure, and feel like I stayed positive throughout the match and that helped me."

UCSB's first loss in singles play came as a result of Dubavets falling short to USC's Smith. But she wasn't defeated easily as the match went into a tiebreak.

While down a set, Dubavets responded with a 6-3 win in the second set but saw things come to an end in the match's final leg 1-0 (10-8).

But UC Santa Barbara got back on the winning track. Although they did not give up another point, the Gauchos last two matches played went to the limit as both went to a tiebreaker.

Playing in one of the two matches to end was Yamada, who ended up trailing Kulikov after losing the first set 4-6. But Yamada wouldn't have to play from behind for too long as she went on to close the match 6-0, 6-3.

Lev Ari versus USC's Branstine was the last match to conclude the day. The momentum heavily sided with Lev Ari, as she won the first set 6-0. Branstine managed to bounce back with a 7-5 win in the second set, and nearly completed a comeback but was overruled in the third set by Lev Ari's 1-0 (7-6).

Next for UCSB is No.19 University of Miami (FL) on Saturday, Jan. 27 at 11 a.m. in Auburn, Alabama.

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