When the men’s tennis team faltered early against Pepperdine, it fell to the squad’s veterans to help dig the Bruins out of the hole.
After barely losing the doubles point, No. 2 UCLA defeated No. 7 Pepperdine 4-3 – arguably the team’s closest match of the season – behind the efforts of juniors Adrien Puget and Clay Thompson.
“The two juniors really did a great job, and to come out and have to win four singles was tough,” said coach Billy Martin. “Clay somehow stuck it out and won the last three points to turn it around.”
Of the match’s three tiebreakers, the most important came at the very end. Thompson clinched the victory for the Bruins by defeating junior David Sofaer of the Waves in a third set tiebreaker 7-6.
“It was one of those matches where you really had to fight,” Thompson said. “I had great support of my teammates behind me, and I was just thinking that I wanted to do it for them.”
While the veterans may have closed out the victory, Puget said he believes the result was more about the team’s overall resilience and will to win.
“It was definitely not our best level today, but I think we put out a good team effort to win the match,” Puget said. “What we needed was to play and fight hard, and win.”
Puget, a team captain, also found positive elements of the team’s struggle against the Waves.
“If we play like that and still win these close matches, when we raise our level of play it will be way better and hopefully not as close,” Puget said.
Puget said he particularly enjoys playing at Pepperdine, and his comfort has shown in his results: he has won in both singles and doubles each time he has played in Malibu.
“It wasn’t our court, and the wind wasn’t too bad, but it was just a little different even though it was just 20 minutes away,” Puget said. “I personally like playing over there, so I think it wasn’t that bad compared to other places.”
With championship season looming, the team knows today’s challenges are only a preview of what they will face against similarly talented teams in the next few weeks. But for now, the Bruins are happy to have eked out a close win.
“Quite honestly we didn’t play our best,” Martin said. “It was just a great win against a really great team, and I was really proud the guys just found a way to win.”