Just three weeks into the season, the UCLA women’s tennis team received two rude wake-up calls courtesy of the nation’s top-ranked player and top-ranked team.
It was a rough weekend for the No. 4 Bruins as they came up empty-handed in the Bay Area, losing to Cal 4-3 on Friday and to Stanford 5-2 on Saturday.
Though these losses did not affect conference standings, the Bruins (4-2) realized the need for some changes before the Pac-10 rivals meet again in March.
“We’re taking this weekend as a learning experience,” UCLA coach Stella Sampras Webster said. “Now we know what we have to improve on.”
UCLA lost a close match against No. 8 Cal, stumbling in the doubles matches and dropping the first point. The Bruins then proceeded to split the singles points with straight set wins by senior Maya Johansson and sophomore Pamela Montez.
Senior Andrea Remynse fought hard to win 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the final match, but the Bruins came a point short of downing Cal (3-0), a team the Bruins openly admitted they misjudged.
“I think we did underestimate Cal and that hurt us in the end,” senior Noelle Hickey said. “Obviously we always want to win … but most importantly it’s how we respond.”
The match’s deciding point came from Cal’s Jana Juricova, currently ranked No. 1 in the country. Junior McCall Jones came close to upsetting the top-ranked player, but her comeback came short as she lost 6-4, 5-7, 7-5.
Things did not get any easier the next day as UCLA faced the defending champion, No. 1 Stanford. The Bruins lost the doubles point again, something Sampras Webster said the team needed to work on.
“We’ve struggled all week with the double point,” Sampras Webster said.
“We have the players, it’s just a matter of bringing them together.”
The Bruins did not have the record books on their side heading into Stanford’s Taube Tennis Center: The Cardinal (4-0) have the longest home winning streak in NCAA history, one that began 12 years ago and continued through Saturday.
“Stanford was just a better team than us right now, unfortunately,” Remynse said. “But it’s better to lose three weeks into the season than in April and May. That’s what we definitely want to take away from this weekend.”
Though the Bruins fell into a unconquerable five-point deficit, Johansson and Montez won their singles matches to bring the score up to 5-2. Montez won the Bruins’ final point with a 12-10 tiebreak to remain undefeated in singles play.
The Bruins will look for all-around improvements before the National Indoor Championships, where UCLA may face the two schools again.
“Right now we have some things we have to figure out,” said Sampras Webster. “We’re going to lick our wounds and get back at it.”