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Women’s tennis gains confidence with three sweeps at start of NCAA tournament

Redshirt junior Jada Hart said UCLA women’s tennis is peaking at the right time. The last time the Bruins swept their first three opponents in the NCAA championship, UCLA won it all. (Niveda Tennety/Daily Bruin)

By Andreas Papoutsis

May 15, 2019 12:54 a.m.

The Bruins have not dropped a single point in the tournament.

No. 7 seed UCLA women’s tennis (21-7, 8-2 Pac-12) has won its first three matches of the NCAA championship by a combined score of 12-0. The Bruins posted a similar record last year, winning their first three duals 12-1 before falling to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the Elite Eight.

UCLA swept 32% of its opponents in the regular season – an 18% drop after sweeping 50% of regular season opponents in 2018. Nine of the Bruins’ 11 sweeps this season have come against teams with winning records.

The last time the Bruins notched three sweeps to start their NCAA campaign, they emerged victorious to claim the 2014 national title.

“We could be a Final Four team,” said coach Stella Sampras Webster. “When you play in the NCAA, you just got to get a couple players hot and anything can happen.”

UCLA’s latest sweep over Washington sent the Bruins through to the Elite Eight. UCLA competed against Washington twice this season before meeting again in the tournament, yet did not post a sweep in either of the previous matches.

Sophomore Abi Altick said a sweep over a high-caliber opponent boosts the team’s confidence.

“It’s huge for us to keep getting better,” Altick said. “It shows us that anything is possible.”

Redshirt junior Jada Hart said the string of results may motivate the team, but the Bruins will be put to the test against a Tar Heels squad that has only lost one game.

“Everyone is in a better space now, both mentally and physically, now that we got those three sweeps,” Hart said. “We’re feeling great about going to Orlando and we’re looking to give it everything we have.”

Hart said the team is ready to bounce back despite dropping its first matchup of the season to North Carolina.

“Everybody is feeling really good about their game now,” Hart said. “This is the moment where we all want to peak, so this was a match where we wanted to handle (Washington) with ease going into the Elite Eight.”

Sampras Webster said the sweeps have been a testament to the skill of her players and their ability to beat any team moving forward.

“We just played a really high level of tennis,” Sampras Webster said. “It’s pretty impressive the way we got four points in a row, so it was a good day to be a Bruin.”

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Andreas Papoutsis | 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.
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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