Friday, 9 a.m.
Live stats on UCLABruins.com
This weekend, members of the UCLA women’s tennis team will follow the old sports adage and “act like they’ve been there before.”
This will come in handy, considering the Bruins’ opponent cannot do the same.
UCLA will play Virginia in the NCAA Tournament round of 16 today in Palo Alto, in what will be the Cavaliers’ first round of 16 match. The contest will also be the first between UCLA and Virginia in both schools’ histories. The Bruins are somewhat familiar with their opponent because they have played at previous tournaments together, but the schools are meeting head-to-head for the first time.
Though No. 6 seed UCLA may not know much about No. 11 seed Virginia, many Bruins do know about playing far into the postseason.
“We’re hoping to use our experience over (Virginia’s) inexperience,” coach Stella Sampras Webster said. “This is their first time here at the Sweet 16, and we have been here before, and we hope that that experience will help us.”
Of the six players in UCLA’s regular singles and doubles rotations, only two, freshman Courtney Dolehide and junior transfer McCall Jones, are playing in their first NCAA Tournament. These players, whose postseason careers are still in their early stages, don’t need to look too far for wisdom.
“The coaches and the other players, they know the right things to say to get you pumped up and to get you as prepared as can be, so that’s been really helpful,” Dolehide said.
Two 4-0 victories over Quinnipiac and San Diego in the first two rounds of tournament play will add momentum and confidence for the Bruins, but true experience is gained in the later rounds, where the Cavaliers and other talented teams loom.
Virginia advanced this far by blanking Virginia Commonwealth 4-0 in the first round and getting past North Carolina State 4-2 in the second round.
Junior Lindsey Hardenbergh, ranked No. 27 in the nation, leads Virginia at the No. 1 singles spot. She is also part of Virginia’s No. 1 doubles duo, which is ranked No. 32 in the country. The Cavaliers boast another top 100 player in junior No. 60 Emily Fraser, Virginia’s No. 2 singles player. Both players come into today’s match with straight set wins in their first two tournament contests.
UCLA’s postseason experience, though mostly a source of optimism, does come with a bitterness that gives the Bruins reason to play.
If UCLA wins and Duke beats Georgia Tech today, the Bruins will be taking on a Blue Devil team that knocked them out of last year’s round of 16. UCLA has not overlooked this potential rematch.
“We’re looking at that draw, and we’re saying, “˜We’ve got to get through UVA so we can beat Duke again, because we really want to play them again,’” senior Andrea Remynse said.
If Virginia wants to give UCLA its second straight round of 16 upset, the Cavaliers will have to get past a Bruin team with swagger in its corner.
“I think we’re all really confident right now because we’re playing our best tennis, which is perfect timing, so I think we’re all just really positive and excited for (today),” Dolehide said.