Through the yells from the men’s team, music from the radio and blaring noise of construction, the UCLA women’s tennis team pushed out distractions to concentrate on the task at hand. Preparing for a Friday match at No. 18 Pepperdine (4-2), No. 11 UCLA’s (7-2) players zoned into practice and pushed each other and themselves to elevate their level of play.
With senior Robin Anderson back from a sprained ankle, UCLA returns a veteran starter with championship experience. However, with sophomore Jennifer Brady not in full form, the rest of the Bruin lineup said they have to be ready to grind during matches. The team said it will start by bringing the same intensity to each drill as it would to an NCAA title match.
“Playing against strong teams comes down to who is going to execute,” said coach Stella Sampras Webster. “Pepperdine will come out firing and we have to be ready to respond.”
After splitting matches against St. Mary’s and Cal last week, players said they returned to the practice courts armed with goals in both singles and doubles. Knocking down cones with serves, cracking ground strokes deep into the corners of the baseline and persevering through internal frustration, the Bruins said they improved both mentally and physically.
“Use these losses as motivation,” Anderson said. “We can only get better.”
Although the coaches look for players to be ready to respond after a close 4-3 loss against the Bears, they don’t want the Bruins to leave the courts forgetting the positives. After senior Chanelle Van Nguyen was upset at her practice performance on Thursday, the coaching staff reiterated to her the importance of balancing attitude and drive.
“You don’t want your attitude or frustration to affect your performance,” Sampras Webster said. “We remind them to believe in themselves and that they can overcome adversity.”
Against a burgeoning Waves team that has leaped 10 spots in the NCAA rankings, the Bruins will face their sixth ranked opponent in as many matches. With two straight upsets against then-No. 25 Texas and No. 17 TCU, Pepperdine looks to continue that streak against UCLA.
Through facing team injuries and fearless opponents, the Bruins said they have improved not only their individual games but also their team camaraderie.
“Every time we walk onto the court, we gain confidence,” said freshman Kristin Wiley. “We want these experiences and challenges.”
Next on the Bruins’ schedule, a pivotal match against crosstown rivals No. 4 Trojans (10-1). The team said that the match against Pepperdine will act to prepare it for championship caliber teams as conference play deepens, allowing the Bruins to execute no matter who they’re facing.