On the tennis court of Libbey Park in Ojai, the UCLA women’s tennis team celebrated what has become a familiar experience for the Bruins at the Pac-12 tournament – a singles title.
With her win of the Pac-12 women’s tennis title on Sunday, junior Catherine Harrison became the third Bruin in three years to take home the trophy.
Four other Bruins also played in the singles tournament this past Thursday through Sunday. Sophomore Jennifer Brady played as the team’s No. 1 spot, senior Chanelle Van Nguyen entered as the No. 2 seed and senior Kaitlin Ray and freshman Terri Fleming both participated in the invitational draw of the tournament.
All three Bruins in the championship draw battled their way to quarterfinals, but Harrison was the only one to advance any further. Van Nguyen was upset by USC’s Zoë Scandalis 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 and Brady was defeated by the No. 4 seed, Cal’s Klara Fabikova 6-0, 6-1, who would then go on to play Harrison for the championship.
Harrison had a dominating performance on Friday in the quarterfinal, shutting out Utah’s Tereza Bekerova 6-0, 6-0.
“When (Harrison) is moving well, she plays well and I think she was moving extremely well,” said coach Stella Sampras Webster. “She executed her game plan perfectly. She didn’t have many unforced errors and really just dominated with her execution. When she is executing, she is really tough to beat.”
While Harrison has had a winning singles record throughout this season, she has yet to have the opportunity to compete against any other school’s top competitors because she typically plays in the Bruins No. 4 or 5 spot. However, with two of the teams top five players, No. 1 senior Robin Anderson and No. 4 junior Kyle McPhillips, sitting out of the tournament to rest, Harrison found herself at the Bruins third spot and was able to challenge herself against stiffer competition.
“I wasn’t sure how I was going to stack up against the top players on these good teams,” Harrison said. “I knew I was playing well, but I didn’t know if it was well enough to beat them.”
But Harrison’s play did prove good enough.
In the semifinal, she fought it out against one of USC’s top players, Scandalis. Tied 1-1 after the first two sets, Harrison came out victorious after Scandalis was forced to retire before finishing the match due to injury.
The final was then set as Harrison was to take on Cal’s Fabikova in Sunday’s match. Harrison maintained her strong-willed performance, winning the first two sets 6-4, 6-0, and earning herself the title.
Harrison credited the key to her winning performance to her consistency.
“It’s easy in a big tournament, once you have a big win, to kind of let your self slip,” Harrison said. “But I was really happy with myself. I kept a positive outlook the whole tournament and maintained a steady level.”
Harrison and the rest of the team aim to carry this winning momentum into their final weeks of the season as they begin to prepare for the NCAA Tournament beginning on May 9. There, the Bruins (18-4, 8-2 Pac-12) will compete for their second consecutive national championship.
Compiled by Kathryn Gallo, Bruin Sports contributor.