Sunday, January 26

Women’s tennis is counting on combination of youth and experience

Senior Alaina Miller paired up with freshman Taylor Johnson in doubles for UCLA women's tennis' season opener against Minnesota and Loyola Marymount last weekend. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin)

The Bruins used a mix of freshmen and veterans in their wins at the ITA Kickoff.

Freshmen Elysia Bolton and Taylor Johnson led No. 8 UCLA women’s tennis (2-0) in ITA Kickoff weekend. Bolton – who came to Westwood ranked No. 22 on the ITF juniors list – has burst onto the college tennis scene, earning a No. 11 nationwide individual ranking. She did not concede a single set in her ITA Kickoff performance.

“(Bolton’s) an excellent doubles player,” said coach Stella Sampras Webster. “She’s someone who has a big game and a lot of weapons.”

Just like any freshman, Bolton is still acclimating to the intensity and pace of a collegiate tennis season – a process which Sampras Webster said has been facilitated by pairing her up in doubles with returning players.

“We have so many great doubles players,” Sampras Webster said. “I think for (Bolton) it’s just getting used to playing in this college format.”

Collegiate tennis differs from the high school level in the amount of strength that is required. Bolton said the Bruins will have to maintain stamina throughout the season to optimize their freshmen talent.

“It’s just a lot more match endurance,” Bolton said. “That’s something I have to get used to.”

Johnson teamed up with senior Alaina Miller to earn a doubles win against Minnesota on Saturday. Miller said she hopes to continue building team chemistry through pairing up with newcomers.

“You want the team to do well,” Miller said. “I think we have a really good team vibe this year and I think we’ll be able to continue that for the whole season.”

Sampras Webster has lauded the presence of Miller and her ability to utilize experience to outskill opponents.

“(Miller) knows what to expect and how to prepare,” Sampras Webster said. “She has a very aggressive and strong game.”

But Miller said the most important key to success may hinge on the rigor of training, not necessarily matches themselves.

“We’ve been working so hard and training so hard that (the match) is the easiest part for us,” Miller said.

Sampras Webster also explained the necessity of having players such as Miller endure a season filled with arduous tests from high-quality opponents.

“(Miller is) very tough to play,” Sampras Webster said. “It’s great for us because it gives us so much depth which helps us be a better team.”

The quality of opponents is set to increase for UCLA, with a matchup against defending champion Stanford less than two months away.

“The competition will get better and stronger,” Sampras Webster said. “But we’re excited.”

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Sports reporter

Papoutsis is currently a Sports reporter on the men's tennis beat. He was previously a contributor on the women's tennis beat.

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