This weekend is what the Bruins have been working toward all year long.
No. 14 UCLA women’s tennis (20-5, 9-1 Pac-12) heads into the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday. The Bruins drew a 12 seed, earning a first round match against unranked Fresno State (12-12, 3-1 Mountain West).
“We’ve been getting ready for this weekend all year so it’s been more tapering down and maintaining our health,” said No. 67 freshman Abi Altick.
The Bruins have also earned the home-court advantage, bringing the first two rounds back to the Los Angeles Tennis Center.
“We’re really excited about our draw,” said No. 33 redshirt sophomore Jada Hart. “We’ve been telling ourselves within the team that we have a good draw and that we have a good opportunity to make the Sweet 16.”
UCLA traveled to Malibu, California, last year to face Pepperdine in the second round of the NCAA tournament – the Bruins lost 4-1.
“It’s so exciting to host,” said coach Stella Sampras Webster. “We’ve taken it for granted, but last year we didn’t get to host. We love being at home … not having to adjust to courts is a great advantage.”
UCLA swept Fresno State in the schools’ last matchup in February.
The Bulldogs’ only ranked players are Emma Wilson and Georgia Lawson. The pair, now ranked No. 50 in doubles, was slotted at No. 49 in February when it was defeated 6-3 by the Bruins’ then-No. 38 senior Terri Fleming and Hart.
“I don’t remember so much of what happened, but I think it was probably a pretty easy match based on the score,” Hart said. “(Fleming) and I have been playing pretty well lately so we’re just going to take our momentum from the postseason to start strong in doubles with Fresno State.”
Even so, Hart recognizes that everything is different now.
“It’s good to know that we did have a sweep against them,” Hart said. “But when it comes to NCAAs, every team is going to give everything it has because it’s the last tournament of the year, so we’re expecting it to be tougher than it was back in February.”
For Altick, this is her first NCAA tournament and she feels confident.
“I’m pretty excited,” Altick said. “I think this is the best part of the year, it’s what we’ve been working towards. I’m sure there’ll be some nerves, but more excitement because I think we can do well.”
A win Friday will mean another match Saturday. With a loss, the season is over.
“Just knowing that this is single elimination – you’re either in or you lose, you’re out – there’s a lot at stake,” Sampras Webster said.