As a high school senior from urban Toronto, Ayan Broomfield instantly fell in love with suburban Clemson during her college visit.
Playing mostly at the top of the Tigers’ lineup in singles and doubles, she amassed a 31-25 singles record, 28-16 doubles record and led Clemson to the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
But after two years in South Carolina, Broomfield said she gradually realized she missed city life and desired a greater challenge, more than Clemson could offer.
“It was a great opportunity to play at the top of the lineup,” Broomfield said. “I just don’t think (the situation) was pushing me to be the best I could possibly be.”
Coincidentally, a spot opened up on UCLA’s roster after blue-chip freshman recruit Caroline Dolehide decommitted and elected to directly go pro instead.
With the preseason’s No. 1 player in the nation, sopohomore Ena Shibahara, leading the Bruins, Broomfield knew she might not retain her top position, but that didn’t deter her from coming to UCLA.
“I think there is more of an expectation here to win and compete, which is what I want as a competitor,” Broomfield said.
Even though UCLA and Clemson both finished in the second round in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, Broomfield foresaw a promising future as all the members of the Bruin roster returned.
“(The Bruins) only had six players, so everyone was consistently playing, no matter if they were injured or tired,” Broomfield said. “Bringing in myself and two other girls, our team is a bit more solid throughout.”
Broomfield said she has nothing but positive memories about her time at Clemson and still maintains good relationships with the players and coach Nancy Harris.
Broomfield looked at Ohio State, Oklahoma State, UCLA and LSU, among others, as the Broomfield family meticulously scrutinized her options.
They considered the experience of head coach Stella Sampras Webster (397-152 as a coach), who was recently inducted into the Southern California Tennis Association’s Hall of Fame, and associate head coach Rance Brown.
As a player for the Bruins, Sampras Webster was the NCAA doubles champion as a freshman in 1988 and led UCLA to a top-three finish at the NCAAs in each of her four years.
The duo was critical in recruiting Broomfield, possessing a combined 41 years of coaching experience at UCLA and NCAA titles in 2008 and 2014.
“UCLA seemed to be very family-conscious and had a lot to offer in terms of developing her as a person,” said Denise Broomfield, Ayan’s mother.
The junior transfer immediately became fond of Sampras Webster.
“I love her,” Broomfield said. “She brings out the best in the girls because we know we’re not going to come to practice and just hit balls. You can’t come out and just cruise through practice.”
With the prospect of Broomfield eventually going on the pro tour, UCLA’s track record of players playing professionally after their collegiate careers appealed to the Broomfield family. Combined with the institution’s academic prestige, Ayan Broomfield’s father, Paul Broomfield, said it was a great match for Broomfield, no matter which direction she decides to go in the future.
“Thinking long-term, there are players (at UCLA) that want to try and play on the pro tour,” said Paul Broomfield. “This will be a good stepping stone for her.”
Current UCLA alumni on the pro circuit include Robin Anderson and world No. 65 Jennifer Brady, both of whom turned pro in 2015.
Broomfield made an immediate impact in her first few months wearing blue and gold.
In the ITA Southwest Regional Championship at the Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego, Broomfield reached the furthest out of the five participating Bruins in the singles bracket. She defeated two Trojans en route to the semifinals before losing to Pepperdine’s No. 28 sophomore Ashley Lahey.
“She played well at All-Americans and I feel that she has already improved,” Sampras Webster said after the tournament in San Diego. “We’re learning more and more about her.”
While her singles game has been successful, Broomfield is still looking for a stable doubles partner after accruing a 21-5 overall record and 16-4 dual record with Clemson junior Marie Leduc last year.
Broomfield won a professional tournament with Leduc in Petit-Bourg, Guadeloupe, in 2015, which set the foundation for their doubles relationship.
She has played and practiced with both senior Terri Fleming and junior Gabby Andrews thus far, and while the transfer is still uncertain about who her partner will be in the regular season, she said she is confident in the coaching staff’s judgment.
Broomfield said she understood she would have more opportunities to play competitively, apart from scheduled games in Los Angeles, due to the tennis culture in the region.
With the Bruins currently in their offseason, players are limited to eight hours a week of team practice. Broomfield has been able to complement team practices by coordinating matches against high-level opponents and could participate in professional tournaments in the area.
In just a single quarter, Ayan Broomfield has already seen the once-world No. 2 Tommy Haas and world No. 13-ranked Sloane Stephens around the courts.
“Being in Los Angeles, seeing professionals on the court, is a different experience,” Broomfield said. “It’s a different atmosphere.”
Now that’s a sight you don’t see often in Clemson.