Crosstown rivals UCLA and USC faced off more than 2,000 miles away from home Monday afternoon in search of one thing: the NCAA doubles title.
But only one team was able to find it.
USC’s Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria, who went undefeated in Pac-12 play, dominated UCLA sophomores Skylar Morton and Robin Anderson in straight sets, clinching USC’s first-ever NCAA doubles title.
“There was a lot riding on this match and I don’t think we handled it as well as USC did,” said coach Stella Sampras Webster. “They definitely have a comfort level. When things aren’t going their way they still believe they can get out of it.”
Both teams struggled to hold serve in the first set, but the Trojans were able to come back during the fifth game when the Bruins failed to break after being up 40-0.
“Usually we count on our service game, so for us it was different,” Morton said. “It was definitely a momentum change.”
UCLA dropped its serve on a 40-0 deficit to give USC a commanding 5-3 advantage in the second set. The Trojan duo went on to take the final game, clinching the set and the doubles title.
Miscommunication and unforced errors plagued Anderson and Morton in the first set and carried on through the remainder of the match.
“If they had played the same way they have been playing throughout this tournament, I think it definitely would have been a better match,” Sampras Webster said. “We just didn’t give ourselves opportunities to make it a better match because we just made too many errors.”
Morton and Anderson shifted their playing style in the second set and were first to break serve, but were unable to converge on future opportunities. The duo watched as UCLA’s first shot at an NCAA doubles title since 2008 slipped through their fingers.
“We tried to go out and just play tennis but we were both really, really nervous,” Anderson said. “Everyone was nervous and today for us it came down to execution … (but) we had a really good tournament so we’re not too bummed.”
Both the singles and doubles side of this year’s NCAA Individual Championships ended in disappointment for the Bruins. Sophomore Kyle McPhillips was knocked out of the running for the singles crown by Petra Niedermayerova of Kansas State in the second round. Anderson, UCLA’s last hope at the singles title, suffered a third-set tiebreaker loss to Nebraska’s Mary Weatherholt in the round of 16.
“It was pretty tough,” McPhillips said. “I was one point away from winning the match, so to be so close to getting on to the next round then losing was definitely a disappointment.”