Two months ago, UCLA women’s tennis took a 3-1 lead at USC and came out with a 4-3 win.
This time, the roles were reversed.
The No. 22 Bruins (13-7, 7-3 Pac-12) couldn’t come back from a 3-1 deficit against the Trojans (11-9, 6-4) and dropped their final match of the regular season by the familiar score of 4-3.
For coach Stella Sampras Webster, the takeaway was all about cleaning up errors.
“We’re just making more mistakes than our opponents,” Sampras Webster said. “We’re not as disciplined as I would like us to be or we need to be to play against the better teams.”
After winning its 11th doubles point in a row, UCLA looked strong on Saturday heading into singles.
However, junior Kristin Wiley and sophomore Gabby Andrews dropped their matches in straight sets, and sophomore Alaina Miller fell in the third set.
USC was up 3-1, but redshirt freshman Jada Hart and freshman Ena Shibahara were able to come out with wins.
Tied 3-3, the match came down to junior Terri Fleming against USC’s Gabby Smith in the final set on court two.
But the Bruins couldn’t pull through, as Fleming dropped the third set 6-4.
“It was a battle,” Hart said. “It was going both directions and I thought the team was going to be able to pull it off. We were very close.”
Third-ranked Shibahara earned the only straight-set singles win for UCLA, as well as winning her doubles match with Wiley.
“It was kind of up and down for me, but I was able to close out my match,” Shibahara said. “As a team, I think we can really work to clean up some of our mistakes. We were right there.”
The team had looked forward to playing USC at home since the beginning of the season, Shibahara said. Despite the loss, the atmosphere was great to experience, she added.
After falling to Arizona State, this is the second straight loss for UCLA. As the postseason looms, Sampras Webster said coming back stronger and using the losses as motivation is key.
“You’re going to have some wins and you’re going to have some losses, that’s just the way it is,” Sampras Webster said. “You’ve just got to bounce back.”
The Bruins will begin postseason play with the Pac-12 championship beginning Wednesday.
According to Sampras Webster, with a few adjustments, there’s no reason the team can’t make a run at the Pac-12 title.
“Even though it didn’t go our way today, I’m very proud of everyone’s fight,” Hart said. “It sucks to lose, but this is only going to make us better going into the Pac-12 championships.”