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Women’s tennis completes conference sweep with wins against Pepperdine, USC

For the second time this season, sophomore Abbey Forbes took down the nation’s former top singles player Ashley Lahey, beating her 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 on Wednesday in No. 8 UCLA women’s tennis’ win over No. 6 Pepperdine. Forbes also won her singles match against No. 36 USC on Friday. (Jeremy Chen/Daily Bruin)

Women's tennis

No. 6 Pepperdine2
No. 8 UCLA5
No. 36 USC0
No. 8 UCLA4

By Sid Baphna

April 17, 2021 2:23 p.m.

The Bruins’ stock is rising just in time for the postseason as they concluded a conference sweep.

Defeating No. 6 Pepperdine (16-3, 5-0 West Coast Conference) 5-2 and blanking No. 36 USC (11-9, 5-5 Pac-12) 4-0 at the Los Angeles Tennis Center on Wednesday and Friday, respectively, No. 8 UCLA women’s tennis (17-3, 10-0) completed its undefeated conference season.

The Bruins came into Wednesday’s game against the Waves with one win and one loss against them earlier in the season, with the most recent meeting a 4-3 defeat on Pepperdine’s home court. Coach Stella Sampras Webster said it meant a lot to the players to take the series win.

“When we lost to them at Pepperdine it really hurt,” Sampras Webster said. “We were able to beat them 5-2 on Wednesday, which is very impressive because they’ve got so much depth and their players are really strong. It’s nice to be coming together right now towards the end, and we still have a lot more tennis to play so we want to keep building and staying healthy.”

Sophomore Abbey Forbes took down the nation’s former top singles player – Pepperdine’s Ashley Lahey – in their first matchup in March. However, Forbes faced greater resistance this time around, losing the first set before going on to win the next two for a final score of 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Forbes said her ability to tune out the noise is what allowed her to achieve the comeback win against an improved Lahey.

“I really need to give props to Ashley, because she stepped up her game,” Forbes said. “She played 10 times more physical than she has in the previous matches I’ve played against her. Once that first set ended, I had to regroup and go back to my roots. What helps me is just remembering to be grateful for the moment – there’s no time to worry about whether you’re going to win or lose, what my record is, or what the rankings are.”

Against the Trojans on Friday, the Bruins managed to strike the first blow, picking up the doubles point thanks to wins by Bruin duo freshman Vanessa Ong and Forbes along with seniors Annette Goulak and Vivian Wolff. Although UCLA had clinched the doubles point, the third match was played out, with junior Elysia Bolton and graduate student Jada Hart winning 7-5.

Friday was Bolton and Hart’s first doubles match together since Bolton was injured with a severe ankle sprain in February, prior to which they were the No. 1 doubles pairing nationally.

“The doubles with Jada was super fun,” Bolton said. “We haven’t played together since we played ‘SC last time, and the last time that we played Angela (Kulikov) and Eryn (Cayetano) we lost pretty convincingly, so to scrape the win out today was great. I think we gelled very well together and were very aggressive. I think for next time we’ll work on finishing points a little quicker, but I felt like it was a pretty good first match back together since February.”

The Bruins had similar success in singles play, winning all three points in straight-set victories from Forbes, Bolton and sophomore Sasha Vagramov. Bolton said the win would serve to reinforce the team’s confidence and help it carry momentum into the postseason.

“I think it’s a great confidence booster not only for (Pac-12 championships) but also for NCAAs,” Bolton said. “We know we are definitely a contender to take home not just a Pac-12 title, which is a big goal of ours, but also an NCAA title, and I think everyone’s excited to come home with a trophy and get more rings.”

Sampras Webster said the win against the Trojans was the icing on the cake for Friday’s Senior Day celebrations, adding that it was a very emotional day for her and the team.

“It was a lot of emotions – I wanted them to feel honored and feel the thankfulness for what they’ve done for the program,” Sampras Webster said. “They had to go and compete against USC so it’s always a little tricky – you don’t want them to get too emotional, but it was a good atmosphere. It was their day and to be able to play ‘SC and beat them, as we did. I’m very happy for them.”

The Pac-12 championships kick off Friday in San Diego from the Barnes Tennis Center.

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Sid Baphna | Sports contributor
Baphna is currently a Sports contributor on the women's tennis beat.
Baphna is currently a Sports contributor on the women's tennis beat.
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