Although riding an undefeated record to open the season, the UCLA’s women’s tennis team has been largely unchallenged up until its cross-country trip to the USTA/ITA National Indoors Tournament in Charlottesville, Va.
Coach Stella Sampras Webster acknowledged that the tournament is the team’s first opportunity to show its true ability, and compete against some of the best teams in the nation.
“We haven’t really been tested yet. So coming into this, we didn’t really know what to expect. But they’ve really shown me a lot of heart, a lot of desire,” Sampras Webster said.
This heart and desire was on display through the Bruins’ continued success, even in foreign territory against much tougher competition. UCLA won all three of its matches over the weekend, advancing to today’s ITA National Indoors title match against North Carolina.
The team rolled past No. 21 Vanderbilt on Friday, led by standout sophomore Robin Anderson’s 6-0, 6-0 win over Lauren Mira. Anderson’s successful start was key in achieving the 4-1 victory.
However, against the No. 8 Miami Hurricanes, the Bruins found themselves facing an unfamiliar experience. For the first time this season, UCLA lost the doubles point, leaving it trailing to start the match. The previously undefeated No. 16 doubles pairing of Anderson and sophomore Skylar Morton were defeated by their unranked opponents, falling 8-6.
Freshman Catherine Harrison explained this upset with praise for their opponents.
“I don’t think Robin and Skylar played their best, but the other team definitely capitalized. They came out really strong. I think it was more the other team playing well than Robin and Skylar playing badly,” Harrison said.
Sampras Webster refused to place too much emphasis on the performance of any one player.
“You know, it’s a team effort. You can’t depend on any one player to win,” Sampras Webster said.
Asked specifically what the source of their struggles may be, Anderson conceded the need for improvement. “It’s probably just execution. We’re not doing as well in doubles this year as we did last year. But we’re working on it,” Anderson said.
In the final singles matches against Miami, senior Pamela Montez struggled to close her match. Harrison noticed Montez’s struggles and ended up clinching the 4-2 win in her singles match.
“Pam was in a really tough match. It was pretty even with her opponent. It felt really good to clinch it there instead of putting all the pressure on Pam,” Harrison said.
UCLA only built on its momentum, improving to a 6-0 record by defeating fourth-seeded Georgia on Sunday. After sophomore Chanelle Van Nguyen was downed by Georgia’s Silvia Garcia, Montez impeded Georgia’s attempt at a comeback.
Montez clinched a 6-4, 6-3 win, allowing the Bruins to step into the final match for the second year in a row.
UCLA, who beat Duke 4-0 in last year’s tournament final, will now face UNC.
Although a repeat final was not in the cards between the Blue Devils and Bruins, Sampras Webster stated that UNC may provide a greater challenge for the team.
“UNC is a great team, probably a deeper team than Duke,” the coach said.