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Bruins in Paris

Adapting to altitude, UCLA women’s tennis goes 1-1 on Arizona road trip

Kimmi Hance gets into her stance for a backhand return. The sophomore for UCLA women’s tennis extended her three-match winning streaks both in singles and doubles play this weekend in the desert. (Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Women's Tennis

Arizona State4

By Pooja Kantemneni

April 9, 2023 12:34 p.m.

This post was updated April 9 at 9:59 p.m.

Challenged by altitudes over 1,000 feet, the Bruins split their matches in Tucson and Tempe.

UCLA women’s tennis (9-6, 4-4 Pac-12) went .500 in this weekend’s road trip, recording a 6-1 victory against Arizona (14-11, 1-6) on Friday and a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Arizona State (14-5, 4-3) on Saturday. The blue and gold won the doubles point in both matches, but a rocky 0-3 start to singles play against Arizona State ultimately led to its downfall. The loss represents the Bruins’ first to the Sun Devils since the 2016-2017 season.

Despite the loss, coach Stella Sampras Webster said she remains optimistic.

“It’s not easy to play at Tempe with the altitude, but everyone did their best. That’s all we can ask for,” Sampras Webster said. “I know everyone is looking forward to coming back home and getting after Pepperdine.”

The Sun Devils rose to 13-0 at home this season after defeating the Bruins. The latter stormed from behind to secure the doubles point, but losses in straight sets from No. 122 sophomore Ava Catanzarite, senior Sasha Vagramov and freshman Anne-Christine Lutkemeyer put the score in too deep of a hole to emerge from.

No. 108 sophomore Kimmi Hance was able to focus on her own matches despite her teammates’ woes, delivering the blue and gold’s first singles wins on both days.

“When it’s a close match, as soon as you see another win go up on the board, it definitely brings back a little bit of hope,” Hance said. “I’m happy I was able to do that this weekend.”

Hance has won three of her last four singles and doubles matches, with one in each format going unfinished. She and sophomore Elise Wagle form the No. 12-ranked doubles pairing in the nation, with a 9-3 record backing them up.

Hance said UCLA’s other doubles teams aren’t far off from joining her and Wagle’s winning ways.

“Even though Elise and I have done really well in the matches, in practice I see that the other two teams are right there with us,” Hance said. “We show our teammates that they can win too.”

Although the pairing of Wagle and Hance has been a constant all season for UCLA, its other two doubles pairs experienced some changes over the past few weeks. Freshmen Lutkemeyer and Fangran Tian have taken advantage, going undefeated since beginning their partnership four matches ago.

Additionally, Tian is the only Bruin to go undefeated in singles play this season, a feat that awarded her the No. 17 spot in the latest ITA singles rankings. After a comeback victory against Arizona’s Reece Carter, Tian did not get the opportunity to pull it off once again against Arizona State’s No. 118 Giulia Morlet. A loss by Wagle would end the match early, leaving Tian’s perfect record untarnished.

Sampras Webster said she has been very impressed with Tian’s efforts this season.

“She’s definitely made a mark for herself in college tennis,” Sampras Webster said. “It’s really great to see her just playing and competing for UCLA.”

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they couldn’t match the home fortitude shown by their state rival. Arizona lost 5-of-6 singles matches against UCLA, with its only victory coming from Kayla Wilkins’ defeat of Vagramov. The Bruins went on to claim the next four matches, with the clinching victory awarded to Catanzarite.

Noting the difficult conditions, Sampras Webster said both matches were very winnable for her team.

“We didn’t adjust well in this altitude,” Sampras Webster said. “If we could have made some adjustments early on, I think we could have done quite well.”

UCLA returns to sea-level altitudes to face Pepperdine at home, with first serve set for 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

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Pooja Kantemneni
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