BIG WEST CHAMPIONSHIPS PREVIEW AND BRACKET (pdf)
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – A second-successive berth into the NCAA Championships is on the line as the fourth-seeded Cal Poly women's tennis program opens play at the April 26-29 Big West Conference Championships against No. 5 UC Santa Barbara on Friday at 11 a.m. inside the Indian Wells Tennis Garden (Indian Wells, Calif.). The Mustangs (10-10, 5-3) already own a 4-3 April 10 triumph against the central coast rival Gauchos (10-13, 5-3) – a victory that spurred a three-match winning streak and vaulted Cal Poly to the program's fifth-straight, top-four finish in the conference regular season standings.
A quarterfinal-round victory against UC Santa Barbara advances Cal Poly to an 8 a.m. semifinal showdown on Saturday, April 28 against, most likely, 43rd-ranked and top-seeded Long Beach State (15-5, 8-0). Winners of eight of the previous 10 Big West Championships titles – including six straight from 2004-2009 – Long Beach State hasn't dropped a match against Cal Poly since the Mustangs topped the 49ers for the 2003 trophy. Including a 5-2 loss against then-No. 48 Fresno State in the April 21 regular season finale, however, Cal Poly has chalked up just one win in nine attempts this year against programs ranked in the Campbell's/Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll.
The Big West Championships title matchup is scheduled for Sunday, April 29 at 9 a.m. The complete Big West Championships schedule is below. Live updates for the championships are available HERE.
2012 Big West Conference Championships
Indian Wells Tennis Garden (Indian Wells, Calif.)
Thursday, April 26 (Play-in)
No. 8 Cal State Fullerton vs. No. 9 UC Riverside, 3 p.m.
Friday, April 27 (Quarterfinal)
No. 1 Long Beach State vs. No. 8 or No. 9, 8 a.m.
No. 2 UC Davis vs. No. 7 Pacific, 8 a.m.
No. 3 UC Irvine vs. No. 6 Cal State Northridge, 8 a.m.
No. 4 Cal Poly vs. No. 5 UC Santa Barbara, 11 a.m.
Saturday, April 28 (Semifinal)
No. 1, 8 or 9 vs. No. 4 or 5, 8 a.m.
No. 2 or 7 vs. No. 3 or 6, 8 a.m.
Sunday, April 29 (Championship)
Semifinal winners, 9 a.m.
"We've been playing and competing hard and finished the regular season how we wanted to, so we're really looking forward to the Big West Championships," said first-year Cal Poly head coach Damon Coupe, whose Mustangs can lock up the program's fourth-straight winning season by advancing to Sunday's championship match. "Obviously, winning this week's tournament and gaining an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships is the ultimate goal. However, we're not focusing on outcomes, but rather on how we compete and prepare for each match. If we take care of ourselves and how we compete, then we'll give ourselves an opportunity to win."
The Mustangs have enjoyed mixed success at the Big West Championships since the program joined the conference in 1997. Upended at the quarterfinal hurdle last year by seventh-seeded Cal State Northridge after capturing a share of the conference regular season title, the Mustangs – ranked No. 36 to close the 2011 regular season – still received an at-large berth into the NCAA Championships. Aside from winning the 2003 title, Cal Poly's only other finalist appearance at the Big West Championships came in 2007, when the Mustangs – seeded fifth – dropped a 4-0 decision against perennial top seed Long Beach State. Since capturing the 2003 crown, the Mustangs have reached the semifinals of the Big West Championships on four occasions, most recently in 2010.
Individually, sophomore Gabby Gatewood remains Cal Poly's most productive player of late and enters the Big West Championships having prevailed during four of her previous five singles matchups. Overall, Gatewood paces Cal Poly in singles victories (12-8) and co-leads the Mustangs in doubles triumphs (12-6). Her winning percentage in both singles (60.0) and doubles (66.7) action, however, leads all Mustangs.
Senior Jocelyn Davis and junior Alexa Lee have also produced 12 doubles victories for Cal Poly playing exclusively at the No. 1 position.