An upset 4-3 win over California in early March was a turning point for UCLA women’s tennis.
They haven’t lost since, winning four straight dual matches.
“When we beat Cal, I think that really boosted our confidence,” said freshman Ena Shibahara.
This weekend, No. 20 UCLA (10-5, 4-1 Pac-12) hopes to add on to its win streak as it faces Colorado (9-8, 1-5) and Utah (7-6, 2-4).
Coach Stella Sampras Webster said staying mentally and physically strong is crucial for the team to keep up its momentum in the final stretch of the season.
“Every match is really important to us and we can’t take any team for granted,” Sampras Webster said. “We’ve got our six players and we need every one of them to be ready to play.”
Doubles has been key for the Bruins, said Sampras Webster. The team has not lost the doubles point since adjusting the lineups against Baylor, with junior Terri Fleming and redshirt freshman Jada Hart on court one, sophomores Alaina Miller and Gabby Andrews on court two and Shibahara and junior Kristin Wiley on court three.
Shibahara, also ranked second in singles, said the team dynamic has made the changes in doubles very effective.
“(Kristin and I) had never really played with each other before so having great chemistry really helped,” Shibahara said. “(The team) tried it out and it worked right away because of the team chemistry and knowing that whoever we were paired up with, we were going to be okay.”
Contributing to the Bruins’ success in doubles, Fleming and Hart, ranked No. 23, have not lost a doubles match since the lineup change.
Fleming said their doubles play has been a strength of the team and gives them the energy they need going into singles.
“Everyone has been playing well and handling their part on the court,” Fleming said. “I think if we get the doubles point, that gives us the boost that we need to be ready to go for singles.”
Beyond doubles, UCLA also succeeds in staying aggressive and having a strong mindset throughout the match, said Sampras Webster.
“Every one of them has to be ready to go because they can’t depend on someone else to win their match for them,” Sampras Webster said. “That kind of mentality has been a strength because they know that they have to prepare to play every match.”
The Bruins will be tested by the Buffaloes’ top singles player Nuria Ormeño Ruiz and the doubles team of Louise Ronaldson and Chloe Hule, who all recently defeated highly ranked opponents from Stanford.
Utah’s Margo Pletcher and Alexia Petrovic also bring skill in singles, as Petrovic has won her last four singles matches. Sisters Brianna and Whitney Turley are also in the lineup, with Whitney Turley owning a 9-3 record as only a first-semester freshman.
“They’re going to have to work for every match and every point,” Sampras Webster said. “It’s not going to be easy, so I’m hoping that they have good discipline and are prepared to battle.”