UCLA women’s tennis has won its last three matches after falling to Georgia Tech in January.
But some of the toughest tests are yet to come.
This weekend, the No. 20 Bruins (5-1) will take on two top teams, No. 8 Pepperdine (3-3) and No. 22 USC (3-1), on Friday and Saturday.
As UCLA prepares to face tough competition, coach Stella Sampras Webster looks forward to the learning opportunities that these matches bring.
“I think we’re going to learn a lot about our team this weekend,” Sampras Webster said. “We’ve had a lot of success and won quite a bit, and now we’re going to be challenged. It’s going to be great to see how this team responds to the challenge.”
Sophomore Alaina Miller, who played Pepperdine and USC last year, said the lineups are strong and the matches are going to be competitive as each team knows aspects of the other’s game.
Freshman Ena Shibahara, ranked third in the nation in singles, will be key for the Bruins, as she’ll be taking on many of the top players in the country.
“I think it will definitely challenge my mentality,” Shibahara said. “I’m going to have to be able to play at my best and stay focused, not letting anything bother me and just focusing on my game.”
Weapons for the Waves include seventh-ranked Luisa Stefani and 14th-ranked Mayar Sherif. Sherif and her partner Christine Maddox, who are ranked fourth in doubles, will test UCLA’s top doubles team, 12th-ranked Shibahara and redshirt freshman Jada Hart.
The long-standing rivalry with USC oozes an energy and competitiveness that the team said it’s excited for. Newer players, such as Shibahara and Hart, have been waiting to take on the Trojans.
“Playing against USC with the big rivalry means a lot to our team, and we want to be able to do well against them,” Hart said.
The Trojans will present the toughest challenge to the Bruins in doubles thus far, with all three of their teams ranked in the top 60. The No. 14 duo of Zoë Katz and Madison Westby make up their top team.
UCLA will also be tested in singles play by No. 25 Gabby Smith, No. 61 Jessica Failla, No. 62 Katz and No. 82 Westby.
There is a different kind of intensity and energy that comes with playing top teams. The Bruins can use this energy, Shibahara said, to fight back and play hard.
With the experience of this weekend, UCLA will see how it matches up with top competitors as it moves forward in the season.
“Even though it’s still early in the season, this weekend is going to see where we stand amongst the top teams,” Hart said. “I think everyone is very prepared for this weekend, and we’re all excited to compete against two top universities.”