One match at a time.
That appears to be the mindset of the UCLA’s women’s tennis team as it heads into its last home meets of the season this weekend.
No. 4 UCLA (16-3, 6-1 Pac-12) will take on two conference opponents in two separate matches when it faces Colorado (11-8, 1-6) this Friday and follows up on Saturday against Utah (8-11, 3-4) at the Los Angeles Tennis Center.
After defeating No. 24 Arizona State (12-7, 3-3) and Arizona (13-5, 3-4) on the road just a week ago, UCLA enters this weekend’s competition on a high note with a season-best five-match win streak. Adding to its positive momentum is the fact that the team is the healthiest it has been all season, with nothing but minor injuries to report.
With the Pac-12 and NCAA tournament matches nearing, this would seem to be exactly the right time for the team to be at its best. However, coach Stella Sampras Webster has yet to focus her team on those upcoming competitions, instead opting to take each match as it comes.
“We’re really just trying to focus on the match this weekend,” Sampras Webster said. “Just trying to not get too ahead of ourselves and really focus on the next day, the next match and what we need to do.”
As both the Buffaloes and the Utes are currently unranked, the matches this weekend will likely pose less of a threat to the Bruins’ record than the team’s past stretch of ranked opponents has. But that does not mean UCLA plans on playing with any less intensity than it normally would.
“Our whole thing is that it doesn’t matter who you’re playing, just try to keep your level high and not to play at the level of their opponents,” Sampras Webster said.
Junior Catherine Harrison, recalling a match during her freshman season where UCLA was upset by a then-unranked Pepperdine team, agreed that even seemingly easy matches should be taken with just as much caution as those against ranked competitors.
“We really do have to take everybody seriously,” Harrison said.
Saturday’s meet will also stand as the team’s Senior Night. For the team’s three seniors, No. 1 singles player Robin Anderson, No. 17 singles player Chanelle Van Nguyen and No. 95 singles player Kaitlin Ray, the match will provide the last chance for each player to compete as a Bruin at the Los Angeles Tennis Center.
This senior class is arguably UCLA’s most talented to date. In the past three seasons, the class has advanced well into the postseason, reaching the
NCAA final in 2012, the NCAA semifinal in 2013 and winning the NCAA title in 2014. Overall, the class holds a standout
record of 89-14.
Sampras Webster is quick to admit the meet will be a difficult one for her emotionally. She comments on how rare it is to have that many seniors on a team individually contribute so much to the Bruins’ overall success.
“Having three seniors that have done as much as they have done is unusual,” Sampras Webster said. “It’s really a special group of players.”
While Van Nguyen expressed
“We’re going to play them the same way we would against any other team,” Van Nguyen said. “We’re going to have the same attitude, and we’re just going to prepare each match like we’re going into NCAAs, because ultimately that’s what going to help us win.”