Despite being hampered by injuries against Texas Christian University, the No. 4 Bruins (6-1) handily defeated the No. 17 Horned Frogs (4-5) 4-1 last Saturday.
With players coming back from injuries , the Bruins head to the Bay Area this weekend fresh and ready for back-to-back matches. UCLA said it aims to bring the drive and intensity from practice into competition on Friday and Saturday against St. Mary’s Gaels (4-3) and a loaded No. 5 Cal Golden Bears (5-1) squad.
“We have to play even better against better teams,” said senior Chanelle Van Nguyen. “We need to work even harder and want to improve even more.”
With sophomore Jennifer Brady – the nation’s No. 45 singles player – still recovering from a stress fracture, UCLA will be missing a key starter from last year’s championship team. However, the Bruins will be able to once again use now-recovered senior and No. 4 singles player Robin Anderson in both singles and doubles play against the Gaels.
But, the team said it knows it can’t rely on just Anderson or Brady to win. Coach Stella Sampras Webster said that the players on every court need to be ready to contribute and use their game experience to help the team navigate a tough slate of matches.
“We can’t take anything for granted,” Sampras Webster said. “We have depth and that’s the difference between this team and other teams. But all our players have to be ready to play and be competitive.”
Despite decisive wins in singles and doubles against TCU, the UCLA coaches and players continue to emphasize the need to improve both physically and mentally. As match scores become tighter and wins and losses come down to a point, Sampras Webster said the Bruins want to be able to rely on their consistency.
“Don’t be satisfied,” Sampras Webster said. “Win or lose, come off the court thinking about improvement.”
Although freshman Terri Fleming dispatched her TCU opponent 6-1, 6-2 last Saturday, she agreed with her coaches’ resolute mindset.
“I haven’t played my best tennis,” Fleming said. “I have to focus and be positive in practice. I need to turn my weaknesses into strengths.”
With ranked singles opponents – including No. 1 Maegan Manasse of Cal and No. 48 Danielle Flores of St. Mary’s – looming, the Bruins said they embrace the challenges, knowing that they battle and improve each time.
“After every match, I go back and work that much harder.” said freshman Kristin Wiley. “Work on myself, work as a team. We want to come back strong, win or lose.”