Despite early momentum, the season came to an end Saturday for UCLA women’s tennis.
After defeating UC Santa Barbara (17-10) 4-0 on Friday, No. 23 UCLA (14-9) had momentum as it prepared to face No. 12 Pepperdine (23-4) on Saturday.
The Bruins grabbed the doubles point against the Waves for an early lead, but fell in singles, losing 4-1.
Even though they couldn’t get the win, coach Stella Sampras Webster said the energy and competitiveness of the team against Pepperdine was the strongest of the season.
“Winning that doubles point was huge because it gave us some momentum going into singles,” Sampras Webster said. “I think it was the best competitive match we’ve played all season. If we could’ve played like this more, we wouldn’t have been in this position of playing such a tough team.”
With doubles wins by sophomores Alaina Miller and Gabby Andrews on court two and freshman Ena Shibahara and junior Kristin Wiley on court three, UCLA looked as if it could upset Pepperdine.
However, the Bruins dropped four first sets in singles and couldn’t come back.
Pac-12 Singles Player of the Year Shibahara lost her first singles match since February to Pepperdine’s Luisa Stefani – Shibahara’s last loss was also to Stefani.
“I needed to finish the points off more efficiently,” Shibahara said. “It was just points here and there that I wasn’t executing, and I felt like that made a huge difference going into the second set.”
The match may have not ended in a win, but Hart said the team kept up the necessary high energy throughout.
“We were all showing a lot of emotion and a lot of fire,” Hart said. “We just needed to come out strong and play solid, not giving up too many errors, and unfortunately, it didn’t go our way in that aspect.”
In the first round of the NCAA Tournament against the Gauchos, the Bruins also captured the doubles point with wins on courts two and three. Singles wins from Shibahara, Miller and junior Terri Fleming drove the Bruins to a victory.
Following the win, Sampras Webster said the mindset of the team heading into Pepperdine was to seize the opportunity and play with no regrets.
Looking ahead to next season, all the players on the Bruins’ lineup are returning. There will also be some new players such as Helen Altick and Caroline Dolehide, so not having to rely on only six will be a benefit for the team, Sampras Webster said.
“I hope they learn from this and want to come back and really work hard,” Sampras Webster said. “I want this team to really understand that it takes a lot of hard work and a lot of self-motivation.”
The NCAA Tournament is not over yet for Shibahara and the pair of Shibahara and Hart, who will compete in the singles and doubles championships May 24-29 in Athens, Georgia.