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Women’s tennis 2022 NCAA tournament predictions

UCLA women’s tennis members high-five after a match. The Bruins will be taking on Arkansas on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Stillwater, Oklahoma. (Finn Chitwood/Daily Bruin)

By Olivia Simons, Amy Ionescu, Sam Lieberman, and Jack Nelson

May 6, 2022 12:07 a.m.

UCLA women’s tennis (12-6, 7-1 Pac-12) will kick off its NCAA tournament run with a matchup against Arkansas on Saturday. But before the Bruins and Razorbacks can clash on the court, Daily Bruin Sports predicts how long the blue and gold can extend its season. Take a look at how far the writers on the women’s tennis beat expect the Bruins to go.

Amy Ionescu
Daily Bruin contributor
Prediction: Second round exit

Using their talent and a sprinkle of luck, the Bruins should be looking at a tournament exit somewhere around the quarterfinals mark.

But UCLA also should have made it to the Pac-12 championships final round and earned its second consecutive regular-season conference title.

No matter what happened this season, however, I still have steadfast faith that the blue and gold will be able to breeze through Arkansas in the first round. Even though the Razorbacks have proved a competitive opponent throughout the season, the Bruins’ NCAA experience from No. 25 junior Abbey Forbes and No. 58 senior Elysia Bolton as well as the team’s doubles prowess should lead to UCLA’s first – and likely only – win of the tournament.

In the second round, the biggest question will not be whether the team can beat likely-opponent No. 12-seed Oklahoma State by skill. They can.

Early in the season, UCLA came back from a losing record to win against two ranked teams – then-No. 7 California and then-No. 12 USC – and remain a force to be reckoned within the Pac-12. The Bruins sport three ranked singles players in contrast to the Cowgirls’ two and have won 15-of-18 doubles points played this season.

Although their road record sits at 2-2, four straight road games were canceled earlier in the season, meaning the Bruins should hopefully be able to pull out a win. However, I predict a match result similar to most of the season – a doubles win and one to two singles wins but not enough to get UCLA to four points.

The team will be out in the second round, the Bruins’ earliest exit since 2017.

I would love to be proven wrong. No. 122 freshman Kimmi Hance has the best singles record of the team while Forbes and Bolton have several years of collegiate play already under their belts. Their skills along with the immense doubles potential of the team would in theory be enough to lead UCLA further through the tournament.

But a lack of consistent, attainable victories this season will provide the biggest barrier to repeating last year’s Elite Eight run.

Jack Nelson
Daily Bruin contributor
Prediction: Loss in the third round

The Bruins have made a habit of starting out white-hot in the NCAA tournament.

They’ve outscored opponents 36-1 in the three rounds leading up to the quarterfinals since the 2017-2018 campaign, good for three consecutive Elite Eight finishes.

But in their attempt to snag a fourth, the Bruins will fall short.

Only one conference foe resides in UCLA’s quadrant of the bracket – Oregon. The Bruins beat the Ducks handily earlier this year, and they’re unlikely to see them again given that defending national champion and No. 4-seed Texas likely awaits Oregon in the second round. UCLA will also not see familiar foes No. 8-seed Pepperdine or USC until the semifinals at the earliest.

Despite dodging the major SoCal threats to start the tournament, I don’t see the Bruins cruising in the first few rounds. Arkansas and No. 12-seed Oklahoma State are not the early rollover opponents of years past, but I do see UCLA’s postseason experience from Forbes and Bolton pushing the team over the top.

The Bruins’ 2-2 record on the road could prove especially costly against the regional-host Cowgirls, but I think UCLA’s flashes of elite play in 6-1 and 4-1 wins earlier this season over then-No. 7 California and then-No. 12 USC, respectively, will reemerge.

It’s in the third round where things will become a challenge.

If UCLA makes it this far, it would likely take on No. 5-seed Virginia, a team led by the No. 1 singles player in the nation in Emma Navarro. The sophomore carries Grand Slam experience from the US Open and has suffered just one loss across 23 singles contests this season.

The Bruins will find themselves in an all-too-familiar scenario, needing a 4-3 win to book a trip to Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. Their 0-4 resume in such situations this season will prove consequential, and Navarro and the Cavaliers will show once again that the blue and gold lack the clutch gene.

Sam Lieberman
Daily Bruin contributor
Prediction: Loss in the second round

The Bruins are entering the NCAA tournament having lost three of their last five matches.

Those three losses all came in heartbreaking fashion. UCLA failed to enact revenge on Pepperdine, who beat them in the quarterfinals in last year’s NCAA tournament. The Bruins also dropped a rivalry contest to USC in the last match of the regular season, which allowed California to snatch the Pac-12 regular-season title.

Finally, UCLA’s loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 semifinals denied the Bruins a chance at securing their first ever Pac-12 tournament title.

The blue and gold received a tough draw for the NCAA tournament, having to potentially play three top-12 opponents in Oklahoma State, Virginia and Texas to get to the Final Four.

My biggest concern for the Bruins is their lack of mileage on the season. In a COVID-19-stricken year, UCLA played 16 of its 18 matches so far this year in Southern California. The team’s trip to Stillwater, Oklahoma will be the furthest it has traveled all season.

UCLA should be able handle business in the first round against Arkansas, who possess a 2-8 record against tournament-bound teams and boast only one ranked player in No. 61 Tatum Rice.

Oklahoma State, the Bruins’ likely second-round opponent however, presents a different challenge. The Cowgirls are 10-5 against tournament-bound teams, and have beaten both Pepperdine and USC. The Cowgirls duo of No. 20 Lisa Marie Rioux and No. 31 Mananchaya Sawangkaew can definitely cause problems on courts one and two in singles play and in doubles play as the No. 12-ranked doubles team.

The Bruins hold a 6-5 record against teams that made the tournament, but that record drops to 0-3 when playing on the road or at a neutral court. With UCLA’s poor performances away from Westwood, it’s hard for me to predict them coming out of the second round victorious.

But if the Bruins are to make another deep run in the NCAA tournament, they need someone else to step up besides Forbes, Bolton and Hance. With UCLA securing the doubles point in 15 of the 18 matches played this season, it’s not unreasonable to assume the Bruins can easily get at least three match points. Strong singles play on courts three, five, and six could propel the Bruins into the Sweet Sixteen and beyond.

Olivia Simons
Assistant Sports editor
Prediction: NCAA champions

To be clear, this isn’t what I would call a pragmatic prediction.

UCLA will most likely dip out of the dance early on as my writers have predicted, potentially leaving sooner than they did last year in the Elite Eight. While I like to think this team should be able to blow through their first-round opponent, Arkansas, I imagine the Razorbacks will put up a fight.

But this isn’t any other prediction for me.

As I reach the end of my year as an assistant Sports editor, this prediction is not only some semblance of tennis analysis, but also the start of my farewell to my time in Sports – for now, at least – as well as my two years covering this team that I love before my transition to my new role in the paper.

When I first started writing for women’s tennis, I thought they were nearly unbeatable. The team went 22-5 overall and 10-0 in conference play, routinely taking down their opponents in dominant fashion.

By season’s end, however, the team lost three integral players and entered a semi-rebuilding year without the regular starters. A trio of freshmen came in to fill in for the departing legends, and while they’ve been impactful players, the team isn’t the same as it was last year. Furthermore, a slow start to the season meant a quicker turnaround to build the team up to a tournament level of competitiveness.

Despite these challenges, I still have faith in UCLA.

I’ve seen the fight of leaders such as Forbes and Bolton. I’ve seen the determination that permeates throughout the tightknit nine-person team. And I like to think after two years of coverage, I’ll see the Bruins pull through in show-stopping, four-hour-match-with-a-rain-delay fashion.

I’ll admit these are lofty aspirations. But if this year as an editor has taught me anything, you have to stick with your team until the end – no matter how many more stories that means you’ll be editing.

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Olivia Simons | Managing editor
Simons is the 2022-2023 managing editor. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's tennis, men's tennis, swim and dive and rowing beats and a reporter on the baseball and women's tennis beats.
Simons is the 2022-2023 managing editor. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's tennis, men's tennis, swim and dive and rowing beats and a reporter on the baseball and women's tennis beats.
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.
Jack Nelson | Assistant Sports editor
Nelson is currently an assistant Sports editor on the softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats. He was previously a contributor on the men's tennis and women's tennis beats.
Nelson is currently an assistant Sports editor on the softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats. He was previously a contributor on the men's tennis and women's tennis beats.
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