In the first dual match of the season, UCLA women’s tennis coach Stella Sampras Webster surprisingly shook up the order of the singles lineup, one that was mostly static last season.
However, there was a method to the madness, and the final result was all too common as the Bruins won their season opener.
“We haven’t decided on what players are going to play and if we want to hold some out and rest them,” Sampras Webster said about the early-season lineups. “We’ll evaluate where people are at … and there could be some changes.”
The No. 5 Bruins (1-0) will have another opportunity to experiment as they take on Loyola Marymount, a team that the Bruins beat 7-0 last season, on Tuesday at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. The Bruins have had little difficulty playing against the Lions (0-1) in the past: UCLA has beaten LMU every year for the last decade, winning by at least five points each meeting. Hoping that history repeats itself, Sampras Webster expects the team to come out strong.
“I think we should go out and really think that we can dominate,” said Sampras Webster. “We want to be the toughest, the most competitive team out there. But it’s more of a mentality than about ‘showing how good we are.‘”
But this early in the season, Sampras Webster said that these matches are not just about winning, but also about developing the players.
In her first singles match at UCLA last week, freshman Courtney Dolehide dropped a close match to Saint Mary’s sophomore Catherine Isip on the No. 2 singles court. Despite UCLA’s historical dominance over LMU, Dolehide does not expect to let her guard down today.
“You always have to expect the hardest matchup possible so you can go out there with a good mindset,” Dolehide said. “That way you can be ready for whoever steps in the court across from you.”
Dolehide, paired with senior Andrea Remynse, also suffered a surprising loss at the No. 1 doubles court, a defeat that Sampras Webster attributed to early season jitters.
“I think it was just nerves; just playing at home and coming out unsure of ourselves,” Sampras Webster said. “But we’ve gotten that first match under our belt and we’ve ironed some things out.”
The team’s recent fine-tuning included a brief two-day break for the players to rest before entering another stretch of matches.
“We practiced really hard last week and we actually had the whole weekend off,” Remynse said. “It maybe sounds counterproductive, but we’ve played a lot for two weeks straight, so it’s nice to have that break. I think that it’s going to help us.”
A rested Bruin lineup may pose an ever larger threat to the Lions regardless of the order of the singles lineup or doubles pairings.
“Everyone on our team is really talented and can play any position,” Dolehide said. “We’ll do whatever is best for the team.”
“Whatever Stella decides is what happens,” Remynse added. “She’s making decisions for what is best for the team. (Our) individual goals are completely put on the side. I want to play wherever she thinks we’re going to win and whatever puts us in the best possible situation to win.”