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To start conference play, UCLA women’s tennis will play Huskies, Cougars indoors

Senior Sasha Vagramov readies herself at the net. (Esther Ma/Daily Bruin staff)

Women's Tennis

No. 26 Washington
Friday, 1:30 p.m.

Nordstrom Tennis Center (Seattle, WA)
UW Live Stream
Washington State
Sunday, 11 a.m.

Simmelink Tennis Courts (Pullman, WA)
WSU Live Stream

By Elise Oliver

March 2, 2023 2:39 p.m.

Plagued by rainouts so far this season, the Bruins may have finally found a silver lining in their upcoming road trip.

But this silver lining may be a double-edged sword: it involves indoor courts.

After yet another match impacted by rain earlier in the week, UCLA women’s tennis (3-2) will travel up north to play Washington (8-3) on Friday and Washington State (7-4) on Sunday. These represent the first two contests of conference play for the Bruins, who have not played a match in over two weeks.

“(The team) may not be as sharp as they would if they played every day and had those matches,” said coach Stella Sampras Webster. “But it doesn’t mean that we’re not going to fight, have a good attitude, or believe in ourselves that we can win.”

In their last meetings, the Bruins defeated both the Huskies and Cougars 4-1, and since 2014, UCLA holds a combined record of 17-2 against the two.

One potential hurdle, though, will be the transition to indoor courts, where the balls come quicker off the bounce.

While senior Sasha Vagramov said the indoor courts necessitate some adjustments in playing style, she said she enjoys the change in format.

“I really like indoor tennis,” Vagramov said. “I grew up playing indoors in Vancouver, so I think that’s definitely an advantage. I’ve used my serve to my advantage indoors with the faster court.”

This weekend will also represent the first taste of conference play for the team’s freshmen.

Despite the lack of matches so far this season, No. 57 freshman Fangran Tian is confident that she and the team are ready for the new level of competitiveness these contests will bring.

“As tennis players, we enjoy it when the match becomes more intense,” Tian said. “We love the feeling of winning and competing. We just need to trust ourselves.”

However, the two Pac-12 opponents are not the same as they were just a year ago. After dealing UCLA an early season loss last year, Washington was able to deliver an upset to then-No. 9 Vanderbilt at this year’s ITA National Team Indoor Championships. Washington State, meanwhile, has a new coach at the helm who already has seven wins under her belt – and with just one more, the Cougars will reach last season’s win total.

In spite of her team’s early struggles to string together a win streak and the forthcoming rise in competition, Sampras Webster said she is eager to begin conference play.

“This is the best part of the season,” Sampras Webster said. “Getting to travel with their team, playing for their team in conference matches, and trying to come up with a conference championship.”

First serve against the Huskies is set for 1:30 p.m. on Friday at the Nordstrom Tennis Center, followed by a match at 11 a.m. on Sunday against the Cougars at the Simmelink Tennis Courts.

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Elise Oliver
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