UCLA women’s tennis Pac-12 tournament predictions 2023
UCLA women’s tennis honors seniors Sasha Vagramov and Caroline Goldberg before its last regular-season home match. The Bruins open postseason play Thursday against the Huskies in the Pac-12 Championships. (Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)
No. 5 seed UCLA women’s tennis (13-6, 6-4 Pac-12) is slated to battle No. 4 seed Washington (16-7, 6-4) in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Championships on Thursday at 9 a.m. Before the Bruins and Huskies open their respective postseasons, take a look at how deep of a run the 2023 women’s tennis beat thinks the Bruins will make.
Daily Bruin contributor
Prediction: Pac-12 semifinalists
It’s up to the sophomores.
I trust No. 17 freshman Fangran Tian to provide singles points for the Bruins against the Huskies and the Cardinal. She defeated No. 22 Washington’s Hikaru Sato and No. 7 Stanford’s Angelica Blake earlier in the season. It appears she will match up with Sato again, as she is the only Husky to own the top court this season. However, her Cardinal foe is still up in the air, as Stanford has played a variety of players at the No. 1 position.
Despite the uncertainty, Tian should have no trouble dismantling her opponents coming off an undefeated season. Although she has no postseason experience, the freshman has risen to every occasion, defeating multiple top-20 opponents in her introductory campaign.
I feel confident in UCLA’s ability to secure doubles points. No. 6 sophomores Kimmi Hance and Elise Wagle and the undefeated freshmen duo of Tian and Anne-Christine Lutkemeyer should be able to gain and sustain early leads.
The real question lies with the sophomore Bruins. This core has the talent to win the Pac-12 championship, but the second years in the front courts have struggled to consistently perform to expectations.
However, No. 106 Hance will enter the tournament off a four-match winning streak, including a clincher over USC. I believe she will claim victory against Washington’s Sarah-Maude Fortin, whom she defeated in early March, but all three of Stanford’s No. 2 options are top 50 in the ITA singles rankings, which might make Hance too much of an underdog.
The biggest X-factor is sophomore Ava Catanzarite. She defeated ranked opponents during ITA Kickoff Weekend and looked poised to take a massive sophomore jump. But that jump turned into a slump, as she lost nine of her final 12 completed dual-singles matches.
If Catanzarite can manage to find her early-season level again, the Bruins can come back to Westwood with some new bling. Otherwise, they’ll get struck down by the Cardinal.
Daily Bruin contributor
Prediction: Pac-12 champions
It’s often said that one of the cardinal rules of betting is not to bet with your heart.
At least for me, when it comes to the Bruins, a little idealism doesn’t hurt.
UCLA has had a rollercoaster of a season, marked by some early blunders that include a loss to Washington, whom they are set to face in the quarterfinals. Nevertheless, with seven wins in their last eight matches – including a victory against No. 8 Pepperdine – I have confidence that the Bruins have enough momentum to overpower the Huskies this time around.
Stanford, on the other hand, is another story. Undefeated in conference play this year, the Cardinal is the regular-season champion, was last season’s tournament victor, and currently boasts four ranked singles players.
But I think the Bruins are capable of defeating them.
The blue and gold will pocket the 1-0 advantage, with Wagle and Hance leading the charge for the team to secure its 16th doubles point in 19 attempts this season.
Freshman sensation Tian has already proven her ability against Stanford, obtaining the Bruins’ only singles point in their earlier matchup this season, and her undefeated streak makes it likely that she will repeat the feat once again.
Despite some past consistency issues, I have faith that the rest of the team will rise to the challenge. Hance ended the regular season on a hot streak, senior Sasha Vagramov’s ample postseason experience provides her with an advantage and Catanzarite has shown she has what it takes to beat ranked opponents.
If UCLA can secure the coveted four points and pull off the upset, it can ride the wave of momentum and take home the championship, regardless of its opponent in the final match.
While making it all the way may be a longshot, the Bruins remain a force to be reckoned with.
Daily Bruin contributor
Prediction: Pac-12 champions
Newton’s first law of motion states an object in motion will stay in motion.
And the Bruins, governed by such a universal law, are bound to keep moving in the positive direction.
For one, Tian is riding the bullet train express. Given that she’s coming off an undefeated season, it’s unlikely that she’ll stray from the trend now. As the Bruins look to face both the Huskies and the Cardinal, I have faith in her ability to secure a singles point against both. In her freshman campaign, Tian has claimed victories over a number of top-20 opponents, and her demonstrable prowess will likely make up for the lack of postseason experience.
With Tian and Lutkemeyer’s perfect record as a doubles pair, and the tried and true abilities of Hance and Wagle, achieving the doubles point is unlikely to be a point of weakness for the Bruins. And if it somehow happens to be, they would likely throw any shot of beating the Cardinal out the window.
However, UCLA will need more than a mere doubles point and Tian’s reliability. After those feats are sealed, the Bruins’ trajectory will be determined by whether or not they can be consistent.
Despite their undoubtable ability, Hance and Catanzarite have grappled with consistency this season. That being said, Hance is entering the tournament on the heels of a four-match winning streak, and – regardless of a recent slump – Catanzarite has time and again proven her ability to topple ranked opponents. Plus, Vagramov’s extensive postseason experience will allow her to navigate and guide the team through a tough draw.
If the force of consistent play is present, the Bruins will surely accelerate towards the trophy.
Assistant Sports editor
Prediction: Pac-12 runners-up
The Bruins have nothing to lose.
That’s a strange statement, given that they assembled their lowest conference finish since 2016. But with young guns leading the charge, UCLA can only make noise in Ojai.
Washington appears as a challenge right out of the gate, but the Huskies are not the team they were when they last faced UCLA, and neither are the Bruins. After rocketing out to a 5-0 start in conference play, Washington executed a complete 180 and dropped its next four – the first two of which came against lowly Utah and Colorado. It will take more than a season-ending sweep of 0-10 Washington State to convince me that Washington is back in the win column for good.
I see the Bruins’ four-match winning streak translating well against the Huskies, particularly via the scalding-hot racket of Tian and her 8-0 doubles record with Lutkemeyer. The dominating effort will put the rest of the conference on notice, but the semifinal presumably against No. 1 seed Stanford will be a rougher road.
Stanford is good – very good. As the nation’s No. 7 team, and one that is undefeated in conference play, the Cardinal’s vibes are strongly reminiscent of the teams that won the program three NCAA titles from 2016 to 2019. And not that it needed to be said, but there is no more formidable coach to go against in the postseason than 10-time national champion Lele Forood.
Altogether, that makes the Cardinal a squad with everything to lose. The Bruins, having already flexed their fervor with upsets of No. 8 Pepperdine and No. 9 Ohio State, will take advantage.
The final step towards the title is a lot foggier, but as clutch as UCLA’s underclassmen have been, I do see inexperience counting against the Bruins in the end. The championship match, and the biggest moment yet, will be too overwhelming for the young guns to weather.
Just reaching the Pac-12 final would be an achievement in and of itself given where UCLA stood in January.
Should the Bruins accomplish that, the possibilities of an NCAA tournament run become all the more intriguing.