Women’s tennis closes out season with loss to Oklahoma State in NCAA tournament
UCLA women’s tennis talks after a match April 15. The Bruins finished their season Sunday with a second-round loss to No. 12 seed Oklahoma State in the NCAA tournament. (Kaiya Pomeroy-Tso/Daily Bruin senior staff)
|No. 12 seed Oklahoma State||4|
By Amy Ionescu
May 8, 2022 10:47 p.m.
Throughout the season, the Bruins demonstrated their doubles prowess – winning 15 of 18 doubles points.
In the NCAA tournament, it was their singles play that shined through.
UCLA women’s tennis (13-7, 7-1 Pac-12) split its matches in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, beating Arkansas (16-10, 8-5 SEC) by a score of 4-1 on Saturday but losing 4-2 to No. 12 seed Oklahoma State (20-5, 7-2 Big 12) in the second round Sunday. With the loss, the Bruins’ season has come to an end short of a national title for the seventh straight tournament run.
“NCAAs is a different experience; it’s a different ball game,” said sophomore Vanessa Ong. “You don’t really understand what it feels like to be in an NCAA championship until you’re actually there.”
Two blue and gold doubles pairings fell to their Razorback counterparts Saturday, losing within five minutes of each other and conceding the first point to Arkansas. However, the Bruins did not lose another set all match.
No. 25 junior Abbey Forbes grabbed the first singles win 6-0, 6-4 in more than an hour of play, tying the overall score at 1-1. No. 122 freshman Kimmi Hance followed suit, posting a 6-4, 6-2 win over her Razorback opponent.
“Going into it, everyone’s feeling pretty nervous,” Hance said. “I just focused on my own court (and) supported my teammates when I could.”
Both freshman Elise Wagle and Ong followed suit by winning their respective matches, and with the singles sweep complete, UCLA advanced to the second round.
Ong said the idea of playing for her teammates was a big factor in her match’s outcome.
“I was just thinking about my teammates,” Ong said. “Seeing all my teammates battling around me really urged me to not give up and fight through.”
Ong, who clinched the first-round win 7-5, 6-2, followed up her performance in the second round with a 6-2, 7-5 win over her Oklahoma State opponent.
Despite winning the first set by four games, Ong found herself down 5-2 in the second set, needing five games in a row to post the second point of the day for the Bruins. Twenty minutes later, she closed out her match, not dropping another game.
Coach Stella Sampras Webster said Ong’s play was admirable.
“She (Ong) really stepped up today (Sunday), it’s the best I’ve ever seen her play,” Sampras Webster said. “She really took command of the match, took command of the points. She’s a very smart player, so it was really great to see her execute her game plan.”
Similar to Saturday’s match, the Bruins dropped the first point to the Cowgirls, with only the No. 86 duo of freshman Ava Catanzarite and Forbes notching a 6-3 win in doubles play.
Unlike the Saturday match, however, the Bruins won two of the first six sets. One was collected by Ong, and the other by Hance, who won in straight sets to secure the first point for the Bruins, posting a 6-3, 6-2 victory on court four.
Hance, who boasts 12 singles wins in more than 13 completed matches in the regular season and postseason combined, said the tournament helped with her confidence as a player.
“I was still just as nervous going into today (Sunday),” Hance said. “But I think that yesterday (Saturday) after winning, I proved to myself that … I’m a good competitor and I can hang with any of the girls that are out there.”
Out of the remaining four matches, junior Sasha Vagramov and No. 58 senior Elysia Bolton fell in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4 and 6-3, 6-1, respectively, to bring the overall score to 1-3.
Both Forbes and Wagle, however, were able to force third sets, needing two more points to advance their team to the Sweet 16 after a win from Ong brought the Bruins to two match points.
But the comeback attempt fell flat since Wagle lost 6-4, 5-7, 6-1.
Sampras Webster said Wagle’s ability to force a third set after falling in a hole early in the match proved her abilities as a tennis player.
“Elise raised her level,” Sampras Webster said. “She fought really hard. It was her first NCAA. … The other girl just did it a tad better.”
Although UCLA is out of the tournament as a team, Forbes and Bolton will don the blue and gold one final time in the individual bracket, with Wagle also joining Bolton for a shot in the doubles tournament.
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