The UCLA women’s tennis team has been soaring after its six-match win streak to start the season, led largely by stellar sophomore Robin Anderson.
But in the finals of the ITA National Indoors Tournament against North Carolina on Monday, the Bruins came crashing back down to Earth.
While Anderson lost her first singles match in 18 matches en route to the Bruins’ 4-3 loss to the Tar Heels, coach Stella Sampras Webster displayed a glass-half-full attitude at Anderson’s loss.
“I told the team it’s almost a good thing, because we’ve been so spoiled with Robin, expecting her to win every time,” Sampras Webster said.
“It’s been a wake-up call for the team that they can’t always expect her to win it. Everyone has got to do their part.”
Sampras Webster was not the only Bruin with an optimistic attitude concerning the loss. Senior Pamela Montez refused to linger, pushing on toward improving for the rest of the season.
“Technically, yes, it is a loss. But this is not the NCAA, it’s not a loss. I mean, it’s not a win but it’s just an opportunity to learn from. It was a great chance for the freshmen to see what it’s like,” said Montez.
UCLA came into the tournament after having won it the previous year, defeating Duke 4-0. This year, the team defeated Vanderbilt, Miami and Georgia, and at the beginning of the finals match, it appeared UCLA might experience déjà vu when it gained an early 2-0 lead over North Carolina, due in part to sophomore Chanelle Van Nguyen’s singles performance.
Van Nguyen, who pulled out a terrific performance and defeated her ranked opponent, shared an attitude similar to that of Montez.
A common sentiment among the Bruins is to look forward rather than dwelling on losses.
“We were so close, and I think it’s going to motivate us. Now we know what it feels to be so close. I think it’ll only make us work harder,” said Van Nguyen.
The final two singles matches came down to a tense conclusion with freshman Kyle McPhillips and Montez both needing to win in order to clinch the championship. McPhillips would defeat her opponent 6-3, 2-6, 6-2, and simultaneously place the burden on Montez’s shoulders. Montez would respond with an extremely close match.
“It was definitely a lot of pressure. And I haven’t played in awhile, so it was even more pressure on me. But it was an incredible experience, and it was something that can never be reproduced, that I’ll definitely learn from,” said Montez.
Montez would end up losing the final singles match 7-6. Despite this, the team shared the opinion that the tournament was not entirely disappointing.
“It’s been such a positive experience for our team. We’ve learned so many things, positive things, about our team,” Sampras Webster said.