UCLA women’s tennis to host Grand Canyon in 1st round of NCAA tournament
After returning from an injury that kept her out for five weeks, junior Elysia Bolton has won seven doubles matches on court three for UCLA women’s tennis as the team enters the NCAA tournament. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin)
Friday, 10 a.m.
Los Angeles Tennis Center
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Saturday, 10 a.m.
Los Angeles Tennis Center
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May 7, 2021 8:28 a.m.
The Bruins will kick off the NCAA tournament at home against a never-before-seen opponent.
No. 4 seed UCLA women’s tennis (19-4, 10-0 Pac-12) will host the first two rounds of its region of the NCAA championship Friday and Saturday at the Los Angeles Tennis Center, first squaring off against Grand Canyon (12-8, 6-0 Western Athletic Conference), a team it has yet to play any matches against in program history. Should the Bruins triumph over the Antelopes, they will take on the winner of the game between San Diego (15-4, 7-1 West Coast Conference) and Texas Tech (15-8, 6-3 Big 12) in the second round.
Coach Stella Sampras Webster said the Bruins are on a mission to make a deep run in the tournament.
“They’re very motivated and I think that they all want the same thing,” Sampras Webster said. “They all want and believe that they can make a run for a championship here and they’re all on board. They’re all working very hard and taking responsibility to try to be the best they can be for the team. … They’re just really on a mission as a team to really finish strong here.”
The Antelopes earned their first Division I NCAA birth in program history following WAC regular-season and tournament victories. Their 12-8 record marks a 41.8 percentage point improvement from their 2-9 showing last season, and Sampras Webster said Grand Canyon’s coach – Greg Prudhomme – motivates his players to play hard in their matches.
“(Prudhomme) does a really good job with his players,” Sampras Webster said. “His players respect him and they really play hard for him. I know they’re going to do their best and fight, so I think we’ve got to be ready and make sure that we don’t take them lightly and be ready for a battle.”
If the Bruins advance to the second round, they will take on a team they have faced before.
The Bruins swept the Toreros 7-0 on Feb. 13 and have yet to drop any of their 18 total matches against San Diego, including a 4-0 win in the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2011.
UCLA’s only match thus far against Texas Tech came in the indoor championships in 2018, where the Bruins fell 4-2. Senior Abi Altick and graduate student Jada Hart are the only current Bruins who played in that match, meaning the Lady Raiders will be a new opponent for the majority of the blue and gold.
“We don’t know (Texas Tech) as well but obviously they’ve had a good, strong tennis tradition and we’ve got to be ready for a battle,” Sampras Webster said. “There’s going to be a lot of anxiousness because of what that match means – either you succeed or you’re out. It’s a single-elimination draw, so hopefully everyone handles their emotions and then we come and play our good tennis.”
The Bruins are coming off a 4-2 loss to California in the championship round of the Pac-12 tournament after 4-0 and 4-2 wins against Washington State and Arizona State, respectively, in the days before. Anchoring court three in doubles for the Bruins has been junior Elysia Bolton, who, since returning after being out with an injury for five weeks, holds a 7-2 record in the No. 3 spot.
Bolton said she’s seen growth from her team throughout the season, which will help their confidence in the tournament.
“I’ve seen a lot of growth from our team confidencewise, playingwise, everything,” Bolton said. “I think we’re all around just a lot better team than we were at the beginning of the season and we were already such a solid team, so I think everyone has a bunch of confidence going into the tournament.”
The Bruins have played in every NCAA tournament since its inception in 1982 and have claimed two championships. San Diego, Texas Tech and Grand Canyon, on the other hand, have all yet to secure a championship, nor have any advanced to the final round of the tournament.
Altick has two years of NCAA tournament experience under her belt and said she’s excited to play some of the last matches of her collegiate career at home.
“It’s super exciting,” Altick said. “I think we’re really tough to beat at home. We’re super comfortable on these courts so I’m really happy to play here one last time.”
First serve against the Antelopes is set for 10 a.m. on Friday.