Long Beach State Restarts Conference Play at No. 30 UC Irvine
First place within the Big West conference on the line
Feb. 28, 2013
LONG BEACH, Calif. -
No. 39 Long Beach State will put its perfect Big West record on the line at No. 30 UC Irvine Saturday in a conference showdown that begins at 11 a.m. at the Anteater Tennis Stadium.
The 49ers spent last weekend on a three-game road trip in North Carolina, playing three indoor matches in three days. LBSU started off the road trip with a victory at UNC Greensboro on Friday. After taking the doubles point, the 49ers sealed the match early after singles wins from Eva Rodriguez, Sarah Cantlay and Karolina Rozenberg. Anne-Sophie Willems and Ebba Unden also won their matches, while Niltooli Wilkins earned a victory over Klaudia Malenovska, giving the Spartans their only point of the match.
On Saturday, LBSU played at Wake Forest and was able to win its sixth consecutive match with a 4-3 victory over the Demon Deacons. After dropping the doubles points, the 49ers rallied in singles play, winning the first three matches behind victories from Rozenberg, Cantlay and Unden. Wake Forest battled back to pull within a point as Xue Zhang beat Rodriguez, but Willems clinched the win for LBSU with her victory over Brigita Bercyte.
In its final game of the road trip, LBSU traveled to No. 75 North Carolina State to face its third ranked opponent in three weeks. The 49ers were unable to get much going, picking up their only point at the No. 3 singles spot as Cantlay defeated Nicole Martinez. The victory helped the Wolfpack maintain their perfect record (6-0) and jump up 30 spots to No. 45 in the Feb. 26 ITA Tennis rankings.
In a pivotal conference showdown, Long Beach State will travel to UC Irvine to take on its fourth ranked opponent in as many weeks. With potentially the regular season conference title and No. 1 seed in the Big West tournament on the line, the 49ers will look to extend their 15 conference-match winning streak against the Anteaters who bring an 8-3 record to the contest. UC Irvine, winners of six straight, have yet to lose a home match this season, going 4-0 at the Anteater Tennis Stadium and boost wins over San Jose State, Loyola Marymount, LSU and New Mexico State. The last loss for the Anteaters came on Feb. 1 when they traveled to No. 2 UCLA. UCI has wins over three ranked foes this season including No. 55 Tulane, No. 33 Pepperdine and No. 46 LSU. LBSU hasn't lost to the Anteaters in the regular season since 2007, when the 49ers dropped a 4-3 decision on the road.
Kristina Smith is ranked No. 125 in singles for the Anteaters. The senior, who was a first-team All-Big West selection in 2012, is 7-3 in duel match play. In doubles play, duo Franziska Goettsching and Kristina Smith are ranked No. 41 and bring a 5-2 record to the match.
What's At Stake:
Big West Regular Season Title: Long Beach State has won the Big West regular season conference title nine straight times. The last time the 49ers haven't claimed the title was in 2003 when they took second. Since `03, LBSU is 9-1 against the Anteaters, including going 4-1 when playing at UC Irvine.
No. 1 Seed in the Big West Conference Tournament: The 49ers have claimed the top seed in the Big West conference tournament nine years in a row and have met with UC Irvine seven times in the championship match since 2003, including in each of the last five years. LBSU has come out on top in all but one time when playing the Anteaters in the championship match, last losing 4-1 in 2010.
Perfect Conference Record: Both teams enter Saturday's match with perfect Big West records as LBSU is 4-0 and UCI is 2-0. The Anteaters have wins over Cal Poly, 5-2 and UC Santa Barbara, 7-0. The 49ers have defeated UC Riverside, 7-0, Cal State Fullerton, 5-1, UCSB, 6-1 and Hawai'i 4-3.
Against Common Opponents:
LBSU and UCI have played three common opponents this season in Loyola Marymount, LSU and UC Santa Barbara. The Anteaters have earned victories over all three opponents, including a 7-0 win over Loyola Marymount, a 4-3 win over No. 46 LSU and a 5-2 win over UCSB. LBSU is 2-1 against the same teams, beating LSU 5-2 and UCSB 6-1. The 49ers suffered a loss at Loyola Marymount as the Lions won 4-3.
In The Polls:
Long Beach State has been ranked every week of the season and returned to the No. 39 spot in this week's ITA Tennis rankings. The 49ers started the season ranked 39th and remained there for four weeks before dropping three spots each in the last two polls despite gaining victories over two ranked opponents. This week saw LBSU shift up seven spots after it went 2-1 on a road trip to North Carolina. During Coach Hilt-Costello's tenure at head coach, the 49ers have been nationally ranked every year since the 1999-00 season. LBSU reached a top ranking in 2006, claiming the No. 26 spot.
On The Road:
LBSU is 4-2 when playing away from the Rhodes Tennis Center. The 49ers have earned victories at Cal State Fullerton, San Diego State, UNC Greensboro and Wake Forest. Long Beach State's two losses on the season came on the road as the 49ers dropped a 4-3 decision at Loyola Marymount on Feb. 1 and lost 6-1 at No. 75 North Carolina State on Feb. 24.
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