After failing to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament for the first time in seven years last season, the No. 39-ranked Long Beach State women’s tennis team will have it sights set on redemption this weekend at the Big West Conference tournament.
Since the tournament’s venue moved in 2004 to the Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, Calif, LBSU had enjoyed a streak of 20 consecutive victories.
That is until the 49ers saw their run of six straight tournament titles end in a 4-1 loss to UC Irvine in last year’s conference championship.
Nonetheless, the ‘Niners (17-5, 7-1 Big West) will have momentum on its side heading into this weekend’s tournament. Apart of bringing in a five-match regular-season winning streak, The Beach secured the No. 1 seed by way of a head-to-head tiebreaker with a decisive 6-1 victory over No. 36-ranked Cal Poly (16-5, 7-1 Big West) on April 9.
As a result, the ‘Niners will face off against the winner of Thursday’s first round “play-in” match between No. 8 Cal State Fullerton (6-16, 1-7 Big West) and No. 9 UC Riverside (6-13, 0-8 Big West).
Meanwhile, the tournament’s regular draw will begin Friday with LBSU scheduled to start play at 9 a.m.
If the 49ers should win their match against either the Titans or the Matadors, they will move on to face the winner of No. 4 UC Santa Barbara (13-9, 5-3 Big West) and No. 5 University of Pacific (8-11, 4-4) on Saturday at 3 p.m.
The championship match will then be held Sunday at 9 a.m. with the winner earning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The bracket for the NCAA tournament will be announced on Tuesday at 2 p.m.
Aside from last season’s championship loss to the Anteaters (10-12, 3-5 Big West), LBSU’s only setback this season occurred when it dropped a 4-3 match against UCSB on March 5. That marked the first time in four years that the 49ers had sustained a regular- season defeat to a conference opponent.
To The Beach’s credit, though, this year’s conference features five nationally-ranked teams. No. 3-seeded UC Davis is ranked No. 56 nationally and No. 4-seeded UCSB is No. 67.
Meanwhile, the defending tournament champion Anteaters, which earned a No. 6 seed, are ranked No. 59 in the nation.
Apart from the Gauchos, the Anteaters presume to be the only legitimate threat to LBSU’s chances of capturing the Big West tournament title.
Despite falling to the Anteaters in last season’s conference final, the 49ers avenged their loss by narrowly escaping with a 4-3 win on the road.
Leading the way for the ‘Niners will be sophomore Anais Dallara, who holds a stellar 6-1 record this season at the No. 1 spot against Big West opponents.
Dallara was also one of three LBSU players to win an individual match in The Beach’s only conference loss this season to the Gauchos.
Her one singles play loss in Big West action this year came in LBSU’s season-finale victory over Pacific on April 16. Dallara fell to Jennifer Widjaja, 6-2, 6-3.
However, all but one of Dallara’s conference wins have come in straight sets. The only instance when she was put to the test was against UC Davis’ Megan Heneghan. Dallara would end up dominating the final two sets, 6-1, 6-2, after dropping the first frame, 5-7.