Women's tennis

California 4
UCLA 3

UCLA women’s tennis hit its first significant bump in the road this weekend as it experienced back-to-back losses for the first time this season. Despite those setbacks against Stanford and California, however, attitudes remain positive within the No. 4 team in the nation.

“We’re UCLA tennis and we have high expectations for ourselves, so we never want to take two consecutive losses but I think it’s also important to look at the quality of the opponent. … This means we have to raise our level too,” said sophomore Kaitlin Ray.

The Bruins will look to improve their doubles play. In both matches, Friday against Stanford and Saturday against Cal, UCLA (13-4, 4-2 Pac-12) lost the doubles point en route to a pair of 4-3 match defeats.

Coach Stella Sampras Webster acknowledged doubles play is a problem that has hounded the Bruins much of the season, and she is still looking for consistency from the team in that respect.

“I was just disappointed with the way we played doubles,” Sampras Webster said.

“It’s just been an area where we’ve experienced some inconsistency. So we have been practicing it but we haven’t been improving as much as I’d hoped.”

The doubles problems were not the only deterrent to the Bruins’ success. In Friday’s match against Stanford, sophomore Chanelle Van Nguyen was winning her first set, but was forced to retire after suffering an injury. Van Nguyen’s retirement from the match provided Stanford a point, which proved costly in the one-point loss to the Cardinal.

Ray, who has been out with an injury herself, stepped in to fill Van Nguyen’s role in singles against Cal. She won her first two sets to take a singles point in the match.

“It’s really tough to see a teammate go down. I know Chanelle will do everything she can to get healthy as soon as possible. But I know in those situations, you always have to be ready,” Ray said.

“It was great to be out there again, but we can’t wait to have Chanelle back out there.”

Besides the struggles in doubles and the injury to Van Nguyen, the Bruins also had plenty of positive moments to be excited about following the two close matches.

The Bruins’ top singles player, sophomore Robin Anderson, was satisfied with her match Saturday after winning in singles against her self-proclaimed rival, Nicole Gibbs of Stanford.

“There’s always been this kind of rivalry between us. I felt I was really good in our match today,” Anderson said.

Although suffering the pair of setbacks in Pac-12 conference play was tough for the Bruins, Ray said the team must remain focused on the bigger picture with plenty of time left in the season.

“I think the important thing, obviously, is that it’s really disappointing to take the close losses (Saturday) and (Friday), but they’re only going to help us in May. May is really when we want to be at our best,” Ray said.

“We’re nowhere near our best right now, which is motivating, but it’s also exciting, because we know that we have room to improve.”

Email Elder at jelder@media.ucla.edu.