Weekend in Preview: Jan. 31
(Axel Lopez/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Donovon Barnes, Daily Bruin contributor
The Bruins will face off against some familiar opponents.
No. 4 UCLA women tennis (2-0) will welcome Saint Mary’s and UC Santa Barbara to the Los Angeles Tennis Center for its second and third matches this weekend. The Bruins will have a chance to grab two more wins, pushing their record to 4-0 before they head to the ITA National Women’s Team Indoor Championship the week after.
The Bruins are entering this weekend’s matchups coming off victories against Minnesota and Loyola Marymount, respectively.
Coach Stella Sampras Webster said that each match they play is a new experience to the players and can help improve their game.
“Every match we play we’re looking to get better, so the more we can get them out competing, they learn more about themselves,” Sampras Webster said. “We want to put them in tough situations to grow as a tennis player and so they can learn from it, so they can improve, so they can get better and better.”
All six of UCLA’s starting singles players went undefeated over the weekend, with the Bruins posting sweeps over both of their opponents.
Sampras Webster said she wants her players to stay loose while also remaining focused on the tactics they worked on over the week of practice.
“I think the girls are doing a great job, leading by example and encouraging the young players,” Sampras Webster said. “If we can stay focused (as a team) on the right things – tactics, strategy in order to win the match – I think we’ll do fine.”
Andreas Papoutsis, Daily Bruin reporter
The Bruins will go on their first road trip of the dual match season.
UCLA men’s tennis (3-0) will head to the Bay Area to take on California (1-1, 0-0 Pac 12) at the Hellman Tennis Complex before heading to Stanford’s Taube Tennis Center to face the Cardinal (3-0, 0-0 Pac 12) on Saturday. The Bruins enter the weekend on the heels of a 4-3 win against UCF, which secured them a spot at the ITA National Team Indoor Championship in February.
Coach Billy Martin said the team learned a lot from last Sunday’s nail-biter against the Knights.
“It was almost more than a nail-biter, sort of that roller coaster ride that we get into a lot of these college matches,” Martin said. “But I think it’s extremely helpful for us to win a tight match like that.”
UCLA previously faced California in last year’s Pac-12 Championships, when the Bruins suffered a 1-4 defeat in the tournament’s semifinal. Martin said the familiarity with each program is both a good and a bad thing.
“Luckily we have a pretty good, experienced team that (has) done this road trip once or twice before,” Martin said. “We certainly know them, but on the other hand, they certainly know us.”
Berkeley recently lost to Stanford in a sweep last weekend, but Martin said its No. 1 player will be a competitive matchup for the Bruins’ junior Keegan Smith.
“We don’t know 100% what the matchups will be until that day,” Martin said. “But I have a pretty good feeling that their No. 1 player will be Yuta Kikuchi.”
The action will continue Saturday, when the Bruins will be pitted against Stanford for the first time since their 4-2 victory over the Cardinal last season. UCLA has won its last two matches against Stanford.
“We were just at Sherwood two weekends ago with Stanford and got to see all their players,” Martin said. “But now is when it counts and when we really need our players to step up.’’
Match play begins Friday at 1:30 p.m.
Swim and dive
Ethan Cruz, Daily Bruin contributor
The Bruins will face off against two Bay Area Pac-12 opponents in back-to-back days of competition.
No. 21 UCLA swim and dive (7-0, 4-0 Pac-12) will host dual meets versus both No. 8 Stanford (4-0, 3-0) and No. 1 California (5-0, 3-0) on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The Bruins have yet to beat either team in their last three matchups, but coach Jordan Wolfrum said she is still optimistic about the upcoming meet and has set goals on how the team can be successful this weekend.
“We came up with about 20 different process goals that we want to focus on during this weekend,” Wolfrum said. “We want to make sure we are swimming our own races and competing.”
This weekend’s dual meets will be the Bruin swimmers’ first opportunity to compete in over three weeks. The last time UCLA saw competition was when it defeated Washington State in Pullman, Washington on Jan. 11.
With the three-week hiatus, Wolfrum spoke about how the team used this gap to train and solidify everything that the squad had been working on in order to prepare for the next several weeks of high-intensity swimming.
“As a team, we have set high goals, we have made decisions on how we want to see this season go,” Wolfrum said. “It was a necessary chunk of time committed to just training and just getting better because for the next 6-8 weeks, we will be racing a lot and there won’t be enough time to breathe, so we had to put in the time to get better.”
The Bruins will be starting the weekend off against Stanford on Friday with the first event slated to start at 2 p.m.
Track and field
Joe Ceccarelli, Daily Bruin contributor
The Bruins are splitting up their travel squad this weekend.
UCLA track and field will be sending its field event athletes to compete at the University of New Mexico Team Open on Saturday, while distance runners will race at the University of UW Invitational on Friday and Saturday.
The squad traveling to New Mexico mainly consists of pole vaulters and throwers, with sophomore jumper Sean Lee competing in the high jump as well.
Junior thrower Alyssa Wilson will compete in her fourth meet of the season on Saturday. She holds a top-fifteen mark nationally in both the shot put and weight throw and has won at least one event at every meet this year.
Junior thrower Nate Esparza will return to the shot put circle after posting the top collegiate mark in the shot put at the UW Preview on Jan. 18. He said he attributes a portion of this success to a changed mindset.
“I went through elbow surgery the spring before last indoors and my last indoor season I was trying to overcome the mental issues of returning from an injury,” Esparza said. “My competitive mindset right now is better than it has ever been before and I think that’s been the difference.”
Esparza currently holds the fifteenth-best shot put mark in the country.
Junior Christina Rice, redshirt senior Colin Burke, and redshirt junior Garrett Reynolds—the three distance runners who represented UCLA at the NCAA Cross Country Championship in November 2019—are each slated to make their season debut in Washington.
Sophomore jumper/sprinter Jai Gruenwald and freshman multis athlete Indiah Turner will be the only Bruins not competing in distance events, as both are set to compete in the long jump. Gruenwald will race the 60m dash and Turner will compete in the 60m hurdles as well.
Friday’s track events in Washington will begin at 4 p.m. and field events will start at 5 p.m. On Saturday, field and running events will both begin at 10 a.m.
At the UNM Team Open, field events will commence at 7:45 a.m. and track events will follow at 10 a.m.