UCLA women’s tennis freshmen Catherine Harrison and Kyle McPhillips have known each other since their mid-teenage years after playing in the same international junior tournaments.
“We all played the same tournaments. There was kind of a small group of us Americans that played international tournaments. Kyle and I traveled to Australia (in January 2012) together, and England last summer,” Harrison said.
Over the years, they became close friends, and now as teammates, they are excelling together on the court. In their last tournament at the ITA National Team Indoor Championship, the two freshmen paired up in doubles for the first time as Bruins. For Harrison and McPhillips, their success in doubles resulted in all-tournament honors.
“If you have two doubles players that are good players separately but they don’t have good chemistry, I think it’s difficult for them to play well together. But Kyle and I have been friends forever, and it’s really fun playing together,” Harrison said.
The two freshmen came in as highly touted recruits, and coach Stella Sampras Webster has been impressed with their progress.
“They came in with a lot of experience. They’re both very good tennis players, and we knew they would contribute right away. But even off the court they’ve been able to handle the transition really well as freshmen,” Sampras Webster said.
After McPhillips and sophomore Chanelle Van Nguyen had been paired together in doubles for the entirety of the season, Sampras Webster made the choice to switch the lineup. Following their performance together, and the all-tournament honors, Sampras Webster said Harrison will likely remain McPhillips’ doubles partner.
Despite the lineup switch, Harrison emphasized the great attitude that Van Nguyen displayed.
“Even during Indoors when we switched the lineup during the tournament, she was really supportive. I mean, I’ve never seen her cheer so hard,” Harrison said.
Sampras Webster spoke of qualities that allowed each freshman to succeed: She referred to McPhillips as “one of the smartest players I’ve ever coached” and stated that Harrison becomes “very comfortable hitting one shot very well.”
Despite the differences in how they excel individually, both players are also similar in where they excel: in competition.
“They’re better competitive players, playing in matches and tournaments, than they are in practices,” Sampras Webster said.
Both Harrison and McPhillips said they are excited to be partners in future matches.
Although not lacking in chemistry, the two players differ in how they regulate their emotions.
“Kyle is the type of player that’s very composed, calm, whereas Catherine kind of wears her emotions on her sleeve. … She can get pretty down on herself if she’s not playing well, and can show it. So just getting her to understand how to manage that, so it doesn’t affect her performance, is important,” Sampras Webster said.
Even though the two freshmen have experienced a strong start to their doubles career together, their coach is reminding them of the bigger picture.
“I’m trying to prepare them to remember it’s a long season, and there are ups and downs,” Sampras Webster said.
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