Saturday, February 22

Women’s tennis to host Northern Arizona in first round of NCAA championship

Redshirt junior Jada Hart has not dropped a doubles match since March 9 and will help lead UCLA women's tennis against Northern Arizona in the first round of the NCAA championship. (Tanmay Shankar/Daily Bruin)

The Bruins will begin their bid for the NCAA title this weekend.

No. 7 seed UCLA women’s tennis (18-7, 8-2 Pac-12) will begin the NCAA championship by welcoming Northern Arizona (15-8, 9-1 Big Sky) to the Los Angeles Tennis Center on Saturday.

The Bruins finished second in the conference championship last weekend and secured the No. 7 seed heading into national competition.

A loss to Stanford in the conference final sent UCLA home with its second defeat against the Cardinal this season, but coach Stella Sampras Webster said the team felt confident after two hard fought battles against one of the nation’s top teams.

“I was really encouraged by our team,” Sampras Webster said. “It really just takes a couple of our players to step up in singles and we could be a final-four team.”

The NCAA championship features a single elimination format, and Sampras Webster said the team will only need a few players to get hot to make a deep run.

Senior Gabby Andrews has clinched victories in her last five singles matches, including victories against No. 13 seed USC and No. 3 seed Stanford.

“(Andrews) is really committed to contributing to the team,” Sampras Webster said. “It’s been mentally great for her knowing that she can win those matches.”

Redshirt junior Jada Hart has not dropped a doubles match since March 9, but she said the team will have to trust its singles play in order to advance.

“That’s just going to be the main key,” Hart said. “We need to stick together because if you lose, you’re done. So it’s just about staying in it throughout the good matches and the not-so-great ones.”

Senior Alaina Miller was unable to secure a singles win against the Cardinal and has lost four of her last six singles matches, with two going unfinished. Miller said the team’s recent performances are a testament to its ability to do well in the postseason.

“We’ve had two really close matches with (Stanford), so it’s very exciting if we do have to play them again,” Miller said. “Knowing we can battle against that top team, that’ll help playing against other teams.”

UCLA’s next test is a Northern Arizona team entering postseason play on an 11-game winning streak.

“There’s a different excitement,” Miller said. “We know that this is the finale and we have a really good chance of doing well.”

The first-round will begin Saturday at noon.

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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