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Tides turn against UCLA women’s tennis at ITA Southwest Regional Championships

Junior Elise Wagle leaps to hit a forehand return. (Julia Zhou/Assistant Photo editor)

By Jack Nelson

Oct. 28, 2023 10:25 p.m.

This post was updated Oct. 29 at 8:19 p.m.

Upon a back-to-back champion’s return, a three-peat slipped through the Bruins’ fingers.

The youth were left to try and keep the trophy in-house – but they didn’t.

But in both draws, they did make it the farthest.

Four members of UCLA women’s tennis were active at the ITA Southwest Regional Championships last weekend in San Diego, where junior Elise Wagle had previously been part of both doubles teams that secured the title in 2021 and 2022. Now the eldest of the traveling contingency, she was joined by sophomore Anne-Christine Lutkemeyer, as well as freshmen Ahmani Guichard and Mia Jovic.

After partnering with then-sophomore Vanessa Ong in 2021 and then-sophomore Kimmi Hance last season, Wagle teamed up with Jovic for the tournament’s latest iteration, looking to strike gold once again. And the first-time duo quickly got on track, opening their run with an 8-3 victory over Long Beach State’s Sarah Medik and Doga Akyurek.

But they wouldn’t go any further. Isabella Tcherkes-Zade and Carlota Molina of Loyola Marymount put an abrupt end to title hopes with an 8-4 defeat of the two Bruins.

Jovic, seeing her first collegiate match play alongside half of the nation’s No. 5 doubles team in Wagle, said she had a strong impression of her doubles game.

“Obviously, huge serve, amazing at net,” Jovic said. “She’s honestly awesome. We communicate well, she’s also really positive and brings a good energy out to court.”

UCLA’s last hope in the bracket rested with Guichard and Lutkemeyer – who also played their maiden matches as a pair. They found more success than their counterparts, stringing together 8-3 and 8-5 triumphs to reach the round of 16, the latter of which being an upset of Arizona State’s Patricija Spaka and Sara Svetac.

But the tides eventually turned against them too.

A fellow unseeded tandem in Cal State Fullerton’s Natalie Duffy and Josie Usereau dealt Guichard and Lutkemeyer an 8-6 loss, ultimately stopping the Bruins four wins short of more doubles glory.

“Seeing Ahmani play as a freshman has really impressed, the way she played some doubles at regionals,” said coach Stella Sampras Webster. “She and AC (Lutkemeyer) had really good chemistry. It’s good to see that. They’re both very good doubles players, but I felt like the energy they brought together, they could be a really good team.”

The quartet also took to singles play, with the deepest runs achieved by Lutkemeyer and Wagle. And to kick things off, the former made a sweeping statement.

Lutkemeyer proved to be a major mismatch for UC Riverside’s Crystal Kim in the first round, serving her the rare double-bagel with a 6-0, 6-0 score. But as hard as it is to not allow a game to your opponent for consecutive sets, it didn’t dwell on Lutkemeyer’s mind in the moment.

“I’m not really thinking about games won or lost,” Lutkemeyer said. “(I’m) focusing on executing and focusing on the game style that I want to play.”

She would eventually fall 6-4, 6-3 in the round of 32 to Amelia Honer of UC Santa Barbara, the longest any Bruin would last in singles play. Only Wagle matched her effort – following a first-round bye with a straight-sets win of her own before dropping a 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 decision to Ana Vilcek of Hawaii.

The offseason work Lutkemeyer put in on her individual game came through in San Diego and continues to in practice, according to Sampras Webster.

“Definitely see improvement in her serve, in her fitness, her movement is just so much better,” Sampras Webster said. “And she’s really committed to playing her game, and she’s able to do it because she’s got the reps in the summer and is moving so much better.”

Coming short of the singles or doubles crown at regionals means UCLA won’t be sending any representatives to the ITA Fall National Championships and ensures that next weekend’s Arizona Thunderbird is next on the docket.

For Jovic – who described college tennis as more enjoyable than her USTA experience – the fun gets to continue.

“You’re there with the team, and even if it isn’t like the electric energy we have in season, the girls are always there cheering you on from the sidelines,” Jovic said. “And I’m there for the girls.”

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Jack Nelson | Sports senior staff
Nelson is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats and a contributor on the men's tennis and women's tennis beats.
Nelson is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats and a contributor on the men's tennis and women's tennis beats.
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