In an extremely close match against second-seeded North Carolina on Sunday, with a trip to the NCAA semifinals on the line, UCLA women’s tennis freshman Catherine Harrison hit her last rally into the top of the net.
The ball then dribbled just over, falling onto the other side of the net and out of reach of Harrison’s opponent for the clinching point of the match to send the Bruins to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament.
“My put-away shots weren’t really working today so at 40-30 I reeled it back in a bit,” Harrison said. “The last ball I was a little off balance on; it was unfortunate to win that way but the match was so close.”
Harrison was rushed by teammates and coaches after securing the singles victory which clinched a 4-1 win for UCLA. The win also offered a bit of redemption for the Bruins who lost to the Tar Heels in the National Indoor title game earlier this season in February.
Coach Stella Sampras Webster said they put the early season loss to UNC behind them and knew their teammates would come through in Sunday’s rematch. After losing the doubles point, UCLA stormed back with four singles victories by Harrison, sophomore Robin Anderson, senior Pamela Montez and freshman Kyle McPhillips.
“Our players believed we could beat them,” Sampras Webster said. “It was great for Robin and Pam to beat the girls they had lost to earlier in the year.”
Before the Bruins could fight for the right to go to the semifinals, they had to first make it past the Michigan Wolverines and some odd circumstances surrounding their Friday Round of 16 match.
The match hosted at the University of Illinois was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. CST but the two teams did not end up taking the court for their match until 11:25 p.m. CST. Though the Bruins and Wolverines got off to a late start, it was the Bruins who made quick work of the late-night match. They won the doubles point and won three singles matches in straight sets to take a 4-0 win and advance to the quarterfinal match up with the Tar Heels.
UCLA got off to a poor start in its match against UNC on Sunday, dropping the doubles point to fall behind 1-0 early. Strong singles play helped the Bruins make up the gap as they took the first set in five of six singles matches.
“They came out and they believed. … They got off to a decent start and won the first set (in singles), then finished it off,” Sampras Webster said of her team. “We are definitely playing better than we were in February.”
With the victory against the Tar Heels, the Bruins advanced to today’s NCAA semifinal against the No. 3 Texas A&M Aggies.
Though UCLA knows little about Texas A&M, senior Pamela Montez said that matters little at this stage in the tournament.
“We don’t know Texas A&M at all,” Montez said. “At this point though it doesn’t matter; it is about who wants it more and we want it pretty bad.”