Only a year ago the UCLA women’s tennis team picked up one of the biggest wins in program history when it took home the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships.
It was the first time the Bruins had ever won the tournament, though they had come close twice, reaching the finals in 1990 and 1995. The No. 2 Bruins head back to the tournament in Charlottesville, Va. today to defend their title.
An upset over top-seeded Duke in the final match secured the championship title for UCLA last year. This year though, the Bruins come in as the No. 1 seed and the favorite to win the tournament.
Despite the added pressure of being the defending champions, sophomore Robin Anderson, a major part of the championship team last year and the Bruins’ No. 1 singles player this year, enters the tournament with a 16-match winning streak, and feels that both she and the team are ready for the tournament.
“I think our team is at a good place right now,” Anderson said. “(I) will just focus on trying to take care of my courts and winning matches.”
UCLA begins its defense of the tournament title today against No. 21 Vanderbilt. The competition at the tournament will be much tougher than the Bruins have faced so far this season. Every team in the National Indoor Championships is ranked in the top 25, including No. 3 Duke and No. 4 USC.
Coach Stella Sampras Webster has stressed the mantra of taking the tournament one match at a time, so the Bruins do not get ahead of themselves and think about the title match before the tournament has begun.
“The focus is getting ready for Vanderbilt,” Sampras Webster said. “Every team is tough. We got to focus on one match at a time, and we can’t even think about playing a championship right now because we have a lot of tennis to play.”
The Bruins’ title last year was a team effort, but the stellar play of then-freshmen Anderson, Kaitlin Ray, Skylar Morton and Chanelle Van Nguyen played a huge role in the Bruins’ eventual victory. This year, there is again the potential for the freshmen to have a large impact. Kyle McPhillips and Catherine Harrison have played well for the Bruins so far this season and will have the chance to go against some of the toughest competition in the nation. Despite this being her first major college tournament, McPhillips said she feels that the team is prepared and that nerves will not be an issue.
“I’m excited,” McPhillips said. “Our practices have been really intense, so I feel that this whole team – including myself – that we are pretty prepared going into the tournament.”
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