Wednesday, February 26

Women’s tennis steels its will before NCAA Elite Eight rematch against Tar Heels

Sophomore Abi Altick had her court four match go unfinished in the Bruins' earlier meeting with the Tar Heels this quarter, but was part of the only Bruin pair to win in the doubles round. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin)

The Bruins are one match away from the Final Four.

No. 7 seed UCLA women’s tennis (21-7, 8-2 Pac-12) will face No. 2 seed North Carolina (32-1, 14-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) in the NCAA tournament Elite Eight at the United States Tennis Association National Campus in Orlando, Florida, on Friday. The match marks the second time these teams have met this season.

The Bruins enter Friday’s match following three straight sweeps of their opponents – an accomplishment coach Stella Sampras Webster said will boost the team’s confidence.

“It’s been a great journey so far,” Sampras Webster said. “But it’s not over and we’re not done.”

The Bruins hold a 6-3 record over the Tar Heels, including an all-time 3-0 record in NCAA tournament play. North Carolina fell in the quarterfinals to seventh-seeded UCLA in 2013 and 2015.

The Tar Heels defeated the Bruins 4-1 in the quarterfinals of the ITA indoor championship this year. Sophomore Abi Altick said that result was not reflective of the Bruins’ ability to compete against one of the nation’s best teams.

“We were pretty close last time even though the score was 4-1,” Altick said. “We just need to regroup a little bit before hopefully getting it going in Orlando.”

Sampras Webster said the team is not afraid of North Carolina, and will use its previous matchup as motivation to compete against the Tar Heels.

“We played them and it was a tough match,” Sampras Webster said. “They’re obviously a great team and they’ve had a great season, but we’re really going into this tournament with players stepping up.”

The Bruins surrendered the doubles point in their previous bout with North Carolina, but have since captured 18 of the last 22 doubles points. Redshirt junior Jada Hart said securing the doubles point is crucial in NCAA tournament play.

“You always have to start strong getting the doubles point,” Hart said. “You need to play as best as you can with this format, knowing that it’s single elimination.”

Friday will be the first time UCLA takes on North Carolina this season in an outdoor environment – which Hart said is an advantage for the Bruins.

“We know that our match is going to be outdoors, and the majority of their matches are played inside because of weather,” Hart said. “I think that will help us, being a very outdoor team that loves to be aggressive.”

No current player competed in the Bruins’ last Final Four appearance in 2015.

“We’re looking forward to this matchup and we’re looking to give everything we have,” Hart said. “It’s single-elimination, so any misstep can send us out of the tournament.”

The match will begin at 9 a.m.

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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  • Richard C

    It’s this time of the season that makes all the tedious practice sessions, scintillating cross-court winners, frustrating double faults and vicious overhead smashes worthwhile……because a national championship contender is on the court.