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In UCLA’s tennis programs, Goldberg siblings share the pride of being Bruins

UCLA women’s tennis’ Caroline Goldberg (left) and men’s tennis volunteer assistant coach Ben Goldberg (right) smile to each other across the net. Competing at UCLA, the duo has realized lifelong dreams. (Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Alexsia Drulias

June 11, 2023 9:09 p.m.

While most children learn how to lace up their sneakers in school or at home, Caroline Goldberg had a different backdrop.

As the daughter of two UCLA alumni, Goldberg learned to tie her shoes in Pauley Pavilion, making the most of the timeouts during games.

Some of her earliest memories, along with her older brother Ben Goldberg’s, revolved around the intersection of UCLA and athletics, attending events at the Rose Bowl and Pauley Pavilion.

“UCLA Athletics has been a part of our whole life,” Ben said. “I’ve grown up in Pauley. My parents tell the story – 11 months old, Baron Davis in 1999. That’s before I could even speak or before I could even do anything.”

Little did the Goldbergs know that Ben and Caroline would eventually find themselves representing UCLA as more than fans. Ben played for UCLA men’s tennis for five years before taking the role of volunteer assistant coach, and Caroline is now a senior on the women’s squad.

While UCLA cast a long shadow over the youngsters’ early life, the sport of tennis simultaneously did the same. Tennis was at the core of the Goldberg family. Even on Thanksgiving, their cousins would pick up a racket.

“Our mom played pretty high-level junior tennis in Northern California, so she had me holding a racket when I was 3 years old,” Ben said. “Competitive tournaments –not until I was about 8 or 9.”

During the early years of learning how to swing a racquet, the Goldberg pair attended annual summer tennis camps led by UCLA men’s tennis coach Billy Martin.

“It’s been a long relationship,” Martin said. “They both, Ben and Caroline, came to the camp as really young little campers – I think as young as 6 or 7. They were both so very shy.”

And as the sibling duo transitioned from shy campers to integral members on both the men’s and women’s sides of the UCLA tennis program, Martin was able to watch their love for UCLA heighten.

“Besides their tennis improvement, it’s been so much fun to see them grow and mature,” Martin said. “It’s been fun for me to watch their personal development as much as their tennis development.”

While the younger sister tried to perfect the same trade as her older brother, their journey came with challenges. The deep-rooted understanding and bond they shared was put to the test on the court during the pair’s teenage years.

(Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Caroline (left) and Ben (right) stand on court ready for play. The siblings grew as tennis players and individuals beside one another. (Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

One specific 14-and-under mixed doubles match threatened the duo’s near-perfect record and showcased the unavoidable sibling banter.

“We lost the first set 6-0, and in the middle of the match we said, ‘We’re never talking to each other again,’” Caroline said. “We’re like, ‘This is a horrible idea. Whose idea was this?’ And then we ended up winning that match.”

[Related: Ben and Caroline Goldberg Score Doubles, Singles Wins]

As climactic as the on-court near-schism seemed at the time, the siblings’ story was far from over.

In fact, it had barely begun.

As the college selection process drew near, extensive familiarity with the green-and-blue courts of the Los Angeles Tennis Center nurtured a sense of home in Westwood for Ben and Caroline. Despite a three-year age difference, the two traversed a nearly identical path as they realized their dream awaited them on those very same courts.

Ben’s dream to play on the UCLA men’s tennis team quickly materialized, and with each passing year, he steadily climbed the rungs on the ladder. He showcased his talent in big moments, such as turning USC’s near-success into a defining Bruin moment, which even landed as one of Caroline’s personal top memories at the LATC.

During the 2018-2019 season, then-junior Ben Goldberg and then-freshman Patrick Zahraj were simultaneously down a break to the Trojans. In a stroke of Bruin zeal, Ben and Zahraj mounted a comeback to beat their rivals 4-3.

Caroline – a senior in high school at the time – knew that, at that moment, her brother had lived his dream.

(Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Ben and Caroline stand back-to-back crossing their arms. (Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

After five years on the men’s team – a tenure extended by a COVID-granted extra season of eligibility – Ben had fully internalized what it meant to be a Bruin. Now serving as the volunteer assistant coach for the squad the past two seasons, he’s been able to pass down his wisdom.

“Onto the coaching side, because of how passionate I am about UCLA and being a Bruin, they (the freshmen) really bought into it, honestly,” Ben said. “Being in such big moments – you carry that experience and pass it along to the younger guys.”

Jumping over to the other side of the fence has shown Ben why coaches might make decisions that players don’t always agree with. Martin expressed appreciation for Ben’s diligence in embracing the learning process that accompanies coaching.

When it came time for the youngest of the Goldberg family to entertain the idea of collegiate play, Caroline had an easy decision when determining where to pursue her academic and athletic careers.

“I always wanted to (play college tennis),” Caroline said. “UCLA was definitely always the dream school too, if I could make it.”

Caroline’s journey as a Bruin went beyond just making the team. She fostered a deeper bond with coach Stella Sampras Webster, who was already considered family before Caroline joined the team. She found a second family in her teammates, forging long-lasting friendships and impactful memories that turned her early dream into a picturesque reality.

The senior said her best moment was her first match as a Bruin. She and then-junior Sasha Vagramov defeated LMU at three doubles early in her junior season, igniting a celebratory team dogpile. This was just one occasion that made both her team and big brother proud.

“(Caroline) doesn’t play everyday, and that’s totally not what her UCLA career is all about,” Ben said. “She was the best teammate, truly just a great Bruin. There are people so crucial and needed on teams, like Caroline. There’s more to teams than just playing.”

The appreciation that the sibling duo shares for one another has only been strengthened through the UCLA tennis programs.

“Tennis has been our lives since as long as we can remember – and so has UCLA,” Caroline said. “So the fact that we can do those two things together here has been a dream come true for both of us.”

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Alexsia Drulias
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