UCLA women’s tennis knows the importance of finishing strong.
This weekend, No. 22 UCLA (12-5, 6-1 Pac-12) travels to Arizona to face Arizona (11-9, 2-5) and No. 29 Arizona State (12-5, 5-2) in its final road matches of the regular season.
Although the Bruins have won their last six matches, coach Stella Sampras Webster said this does not make the upcoming matches any less crucial.
“These matches are very important, as we only have three left in our regular season,” Sampras Webster said. “Going to Arizona, it’s tough to play, so we’ve just been trying to prepare our players and make sure that everyone is ready to battle the heat.”
The weather will provide a challenge this weekend for UCLA, as the air is thinner, Sampras Webster said, so balls tend to fly and the players need to be prepared to make adjustments.
For redshirt freshman Jada Hart, this weekend’s challenges will provide an opportunity to see where the team stands in the Pac-12.
“I think it will be great to see how we’re doing against teams like Arizona State and Arizona,” Hart said. “We’ve been doing well against the teams that are not as strong, but I feel like this will be a test to see how we’re able to do against more challenging teams.”
A clear strength for the Bruins recently has been their doubles play, as they haven’t lost the doubles point in their last eight matches.
But their singles play has been just as strong, Sampras Webster said.
“When you have a player who’s believing in themselves, it shows in their play,” Sampras Webster said. “They’re working hard and their games have improved because of that.”
Freshman Ena Shibahara has not lost a singles match since late February and said her performance in singles has brought her a lot of confidence.
“What’s been really working for me is my serve selections,” Shibahara said. “I’ve been mixing it up so that I can keep my opponents guessing, setting up the points and finishing them at the net.”
The third-ranked Shibahara will be tested this weekend by Arizona’s Lauren Marker, ranked No. 31. The Wildcats also bring Paris Corley on court two, with an overall singles record of 14-6, as well as their doubles pair of Marker and Corley who have only lost two matches.
Arizona State will also test UCLA in doubles, with No. 73 Alexandra Osborne and Nicole Fossa Huergo; the duo is 14-9. In singles, the Sun Devils’ No. 75 Kassidy Jump holds a 17-10 record, while No. 102 Kelley Anderson and No. 109 Sammi Hampton only have 12 combined losses.
The Bruins are tied for second in the Pac-12, with only three matches remaining until the Pac-12 championship. Playing well in every match at this point in the season is key, according to the players.
“Just being able to maintain the same high standard and play that we’ve been doing these past few matches is important,” Hart said. “We’re really starting to peak now and we want to be at our best.”