Wednesday, January 23

Women’s tennis ends preseason tournament play with promising momentum

Junior Kristin Wiley fell to Stanford's Emma Higuchi, 6-4, 6-2 in the first round of the National Collegiate Tennis Classic in Rancho Mirage, California. (Daily Bruin file photo)

Junior Kristin Wiley fell to Stanford's Emma Higuchi, 6-4, 6-2 in the first round of the National Collegiate Tennis Classic in Rancho Mirage, California. (Daily Bruin file photo)

Beginning in September, the UCLA women’s tennis team has prepared for the 2017 season with a series of tournaments, which have tested its skill and determination.

This past Friday, the Bruins concluded their tournament play by dividing the team, with some athletes attending the National Collegiate Tennis Classic in Rancho Mirage, California and some traveling to Las Vegas for the Freeman Memorial Championships. Junior Kristin Wiley and sophomore Gabby Andrews turned in strong performances at Rancho Mirage.

“I think I played well,” Wiley said. “Obviously, we can always improve, but I’m feeling pretty confident because we got a lot of match play in, so I feel good about the season.”

[Related: Bruins hope to rebound after a disappointing end to 2016 season]

Andrews transferred to UCLA this season, after playing for Tyler Junior College last year. She spent all of last season ranked in the top three, and finished No. 1 in singles at the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Division I Women’s Tennis National Championships. Although the transition to a larger environment can be daunting, Andrews was excited and confident following the tournament.

“I was pretty nervous going into the tournament for sure,” Andrews said. “This was my first college match and I felt some pressure going into it, knowing I was playing for such a prestigious school. Overall, I think I handed myself pretty well and I played well.”

Freshman Ena Shibahara had a strong showing in Las Vegas, making it to the singles final, but fell to Stanford’s Melissa Lord. Despite the outcome, Shibahara is ready to take on the season.

“I feel pretty good,” Shibahara said. “I have been working a lot over winter break and I think I showed some of it during this tournament. I definitely have a little bit more to clean up, but I am really excited about playing my dual matches this season and going into the start of these team events.”

The tournaments have readied the Bruins physically and mentally, allowing them to see some improvements they would like to make going into the regular season.

Andrews said she hopes to stay more positive because she’s a perfectionist, while Wiley said her goal is to focus more for the entire match, to not worry as much about the outcome but rather what she is doing on the court.

UCLA looks forward to the start of the season and getting into dual matches.

“I feel pretty prepared,” Shibahara said. “I’ve been ready since the fall started, and am super excited. It is what I’ve been looking forward to all along.”

One of the most crucial aspects of success is team chemistry, and this is a quality which the Bruins see as a large strength of their group.

“Our chemistry is amazing,” Shibahara said. “I think that since we have such a small team, we are so close. I think it is going to help us get through a lot of these matches.”

As the preseason comes to a close, and the players reflect on the tournament outcomes, the team strives to get back on track after a subpar season last year.

Other Bruins that appeared in the Freeman Memorial Championships – sophomore Alaina Miller, redshirt freshman Jada Hart and junior Terri Fleming – had strong showings as well. Miller and Hart won various consolation singles matches. The doubles were also a force, with Fleming and Miller getting a win and Hart and Shibahara advancing to the semifinals.

[Related: Hart and Shibahara fall in National Intercollegiate Indoor Championship finals]

“I am just really excited that I am playing on the UCLA team,” Andrews said, describing her experience as a transfer. “Just being on a team, playing on UCLA and hopefully getting that NCAA championship.”

The UCLA women’s tennis team looks to conquer their first match of the season against LMU on Friday.

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