UCLA women’s tennis has been in the business of collecting zeroes. And just like when cashing in a check, the more zeroes on the right, the better.
For the fifth straight meet this season, the No. 2 Bruins handily dispatched another team without letting their opponent claim a single match in the meet. This time it was a 4-0 win over the Oregon Ducks.
The Bruins started off Saturday’s meet in the Los Angeles Tennis Center on the right foot, taking the doubles point over the Ducks by clinching two of the three sets handily.
Things took another turn in UCLA’s favor even before the competition resumed when Oregon (7-10, 1-5 Pac-12) elected to forfeit their sixth singles spot due to injury, handing a 2-0 advantage to UCLA (17-1, 5-0) as the two teams prepared to enter the singles portion of the meet.
However, a couple minutes into the competition, that streak of shutouts looked to be in serious jeopardy.
“I had a tweak in my back or a spasm,” said sophomore Kyle McPhillips. “I couldn’t breathe; it hurt to inhale for some reason and I couldn’t rotate correctly.”
Play on court five was suspended as McPhillips sat by the sidelines with a trainer. But after some medical attention and a little stretching, McPhillips was back on her feet and ready to get back into thick of the action.
While all of that was happening, McPhillips’ doubles partner, sophomore Catherine Harrison, was making short work of her opponent just one court over.
Whether it was powerful strokes that proved too hard to return or deftly placed drop shots that forced her opponent to desperately scramble to the net from the baseline, Harrison seemed to have all the answers. It wasn’t long before she became the first player in the meet to clinch her first set.
That quick 6-1 set win included Harrison overcoming her opponent twice on breaks, which not only became a source of encouragement, but also formed the foundation for her next set.
“It actually helped a lot,” Harrison said. “She actually had a pretty good serve, and so breaking her that many times was really nice because my return is one of the main things I was focusing on.”
Riding that wave of confidence, Harrison broke her Oregon counterpart three more times and finished the second set 6-0, securing match point with a service winner.
Now up 3-0, all it took for UCLA to cement the victory was freshman Jennifer Brady finishing her match 6-1, 6-0.
Just as they had done a day before against Washington State, the team managed to produce another 4-0 win in a conference matchup.
Though UCLA has vastly outranked each opponent en route to their five-game shutout streak, coach Stella Sampras Webster said the disparity in ranking is often what lights a fire under the team’s opponents and it doesn’t diminish the significance of what her players have accomplished.
“The expectation’s so high here at UCLA that (shutouts are) kind of expected,” Sampras Webster said. “(Our opponents are) going to play lights-out and they’re going to be coming after us, so I think our girls did a good job of not panicking and just focusing on their game.”
Next week will usher in a change of scenery in more ways than one as UCLA will travel to the Bay Area to face off against more formidably ranked adversaries in No. 5 Stanford and No. 13 Cal.
But for now, they’ll still have those five shutout victories over Pac-12 opponents that they can take to the bank.