Rankings don’t mean much.
Despite being the higher-ranked team in both dual matches this weekend, UCLA women’s tennis lost both.
The No. 9 Bruins (6-3) fell to No. 18 California (6-2) and No. 12 Pepperdine (4-3) on Friday and Sunday, after coming off a four-game win streak.
Despite Sunday’s loss against the Waves, coach Stella Sampras Webster said she saw improvement following the Bruins’ performance in Berkeley.
“We were really disappointed with how we came out against Cal. But I’m really happy with how our team responded after talking about our team standard,” Sampras Webster said. “I thought that our players did a much better job, coming out ready to play and ready to fight. They showed a lot of heart and desire in the matches.”
After losing the doubles point to Cal, UCLA secured its only singles win from sophomore Gabby Andrews.
Second-ranked freshman Ena Shibahara, who suffered her first two singles losses of the season this weekend, saw room for improvement but remained confident.
“It’s definitely tough to have my first two losses in one weekend but they’ve been really good experiences and I can definitely learn a lot from them,” Shibahara said. “I can’t wait to get back on the court again and fix up a few errors. It gives me motivation to keep going and get those wins again.”
While Shibahara struggled for the Bruins in singles, sophomore Alaina Miller was able to take home a win in UCLA’s 5-2 loss against Pepperdine. Her energy against the Waves, she said, was a key factor.
“I was doing my best to just be excited to play and pump up myself and the team,” Miller said. “I think that really helped the continued energy throughout the whole match.”
Along with Miller, redshirt freshman Jada Hart earned a singles win for the Bruins against Pepperdine in a third-set tiebreaker.
While the Bruins couldn’t take the doubles point, Shibahara and Hart won against Christine Maddox and Mayar Sherif of the Waves. They hadn’t been able to beat these opponents before, Shibahara said, so they were excited to get that win.
Doubles continues to be an aspect for the Bruins to work on, Sampras Webster said. She added that individually, the team continues to work on maintaining a positive mindset.
“Getting them to understand their game style and their identity so that they can commit to playing that style,” Sampras Webster said, regarding her team’s improvements. “I think it’s all about execution with our team and believing in the shots under the pressure. Just getting them to the point where they can have that courage to play to win and not to lose.”
With this weekend’s matches, UCLA has already faced five ranked teams this season. Miller said having played strong against these opponents is exciting and will push the team to do better.
At this point, according to the Bruins, it is the little things. Closing out the points, taking advantage of opportunities and executing throughout, team members said, will make the difference going forward.
“I think this will definitely bring us closer as a team because we have these losses together, and we’re going to work really hard to get back up,” Shibahara said.