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March Madness: Sweet 16 runs

No. 4 UCLA women’s tennis splits matches in ITA Kickoff Weekend

UCLA women’s tennis freshman Ava Catanzarite serves the ball during a match. Catanzarite clinched the win for the Bruins on Friday against Cal Poly while also winning her singles match Saturday against Washington. (Marc-Anthony Rosas/Daily Bruin)

Women's tennis

Cal Poly0
No. 4 UCLA4
No. 4 UCLA3

By Amy Ionescu

Jan. 30, 2022 3:43 p.m.

Despite enduring a championship-round defeat, the Bruins ended the weekend with several first-time wins.

After sweeping Cal Poly (1-2) on Friday, No. 4 UCLA women’s tennis (1-2) fell 4-3 to Washington (5-0) in the championship round of the ITA Kickoff Weekend on Saturday. Out of the seven total singles victories across the two days, more than half came from freshmen Ava Catanzarite and Elise Wagle, who each entered the weekend without a collegiate win in their young careers.

Catanzarite said being persistent in her matches helped her pick up two singles wins over the weekend.

“I just fight to the end. if I just keep making balls, I can come out on top,” Catanzarite said. “I just had to keep fighting, stay being competitive, and just fight.”

Both freshmen made their collegiate singles debuts Wednesday against Loyola Marymount with each losing in straight sets against their respective opponents. Nevertheless, the players found ways to emerge victorious at the ITA Kickoff Weekend.

Catanzarite clinched the Bruins’ 4-0 win against the Mustangs on Friday with a 6-1, 6-4 victory on court five. Her momentum continued into Saturday as she beat her opponent in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3 on court six to claim UCLA’s second singles point of the day.

Fellow freshman Wagle extended the lead for UCLA to 3-1 against Washington soon after by winning 7-5, 6-1 on court five. She finished second Friday, beating Cal Poly’s Delanie Dunkle 6-4, 6-0 on court four.

“Coming in (Saturday) was just a little different,” Wagle said. “I felt more comfortable, especially in the different situations, and playing college tennis, since this is my first couple matches, … it was just a completely different outlook.”

Both freshmen also secured a doubles win over the weekend, with the court two duo of Catanzarite and junior Abbey Forbes beating their opposing pair 6-2 on Friday, clinching the doubles point for the Bruins.

Along with Catanzarite and Wagle, senior Elysia Bolton won her singles match 6-2, 6-0 on Friday. With the three singles wins and the doubles point in hand, UCLA advanced to the championship round of the ITA Kickoff Weekend with its win over Cal Poly.

“Overall, our players competed hard. They fought hard,” said coach Stella Sampras Webster. “It was great for our freshmen to see what college tennis is all about – a lot of great matches.”

The first doubles match Saturday went to the Bruins, with the duo of Bolton and Wagle, playing on court one, defeating their opponent 6-3. After Catanzarite and Forbes lost their match on court two 5-7, sophomore Vanessa Ong and junior Sasha Vagramov dropped the doubles point by losing on court three 7-6 (5) in a tiebreaker.

In singles play against Washington, No. 68 Forbes secured a 6-1, 6-4 victory on court one and was the only non-freshman player to win her singles match.

Kimmi Hance, the third and final freshman on the team, made her collegiate debut Saturday on court four, losing 7-6 (5), 6-4 to put the Huskies within one point.

Sampras Webster said Hance’s performance was commendable despite the loss.

“I was really proud of Kimmi,” Sampras Webster said. “She’s been out for a while, and she came in and played today, and I think she just did a great job. I think her selflessness and her attitude on the court was just really great to see.”

Both Bolton and Vagramov, on courts two and three, respectively, fought to third sets after losing their first sets, but neither could secure the win. Bolton, up 5-3 in the third set, let four games in a row go to the Huskies’ Sarah-Maude Fortin to lose the match 6-4, 1-6, 7-5. Vagramov’s loss came soon after and to a similar tune, as she let a 2-2 third-set tie go by dropping four games to end the match with a score of 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

While UCLA ended the weekend with a loss and without a bid to the ITA Indoor Championships, Sampras Webster said she has faith her team will continue to improve.

“I believe in this team,” Sampras Webster said. “We’re just going to get better and better throughout the season, and I’m excited to see how we’ll do that.”

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Amy Ionescu | Assistant Sports editor
Ionescu is currently an assistant Sports editor on the men's volleyball, women's volleyball, swim and dive and rowing beats. She was previously a contributor on the women's tennis beat.
Ionescu is currently an assistant Sports editor on the men's volleyball, women's volleyball, swim and dive and rowing beats. She was previously a contributor on the women's tennis beat.
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