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Coach Sampras Webster gifted birthday weekend sweep from UCLA women’s tennis

Coach Stella Sampras Webster smiles at freshman Bianca Fernandez. UCLA women’s tennis swept Washington on her birthday. (Tszshan Huang/Daily Bruin)

By Olivia Simons

March 10, 2024 3:59 p.m.

Coach Stella Sampras Webster watched her team get eliminated from the Pac-12 Championships at the hands of Washington last April.

Eleven months later, Sampras Webster’s team gifted her a weekend sweep and revenge against the Huskies for the coach’s birthday.

“Stella doesn’t want to lose to Washington again. We want this revenge,” said sophomore Tian Fangran. “This is a gift for her, as a present for her birthday, a W against UW. We’re really excited, and we love her.”

No. 19 UCLA women’s tennis (7-3, 2-0 Pac-12) swept Washington State (8-4, 0-2) and No. 25 Washington (10-6, 0-2) on Friday and Saturday, respectively, at the Los Angeles Tennis Center.

While UCLA took down Washington State in the two teams’ sole contest last season, it fell to Washington twice in 2023, first immediately following the win against the Cougars and later in its opening match in the Pac-12 championship.

UCLA started with a doubles sweep Friday against Washington State, with junior Kimmi Hance and sophomore Anne-Christine Lutkemeyer securing their team’s first match point of the weekend.

The Bruins dropped just two sets in singles across six courts en route to their Friday sweep, including a clinching win from Elise Wagle. The junior and her doubles partner Tian were unable to finish their doubles match Friday, but clinched the doubles win Saturday as the final court still in play.

UCLA kept its doubles pairs together between the two schools across the weekend, with the continuity leading to Hance and Lutkemeyer taking down the No. 55 team in the nation Saturday. Freshman Ahmani Guichard and redshirt senior Sasha Vagramov fell on court three, leaving Tian and Wagle to bring home the doubles in a 6-4 decision.

“We stepped up in the doubles against very good doubles teams,” Sampras Webster said. “Washington has a lot of history with coaching doubles well, and they really challenged us. Our teams really stepped up for that. I think that really helped us get momentum into singles.”

Saturday’s singles once again had five Bruins win their first sets. Guichard, Hance and freshman Bianca Fernandez all earned 6-3 first-set victories within a few minutes of each other, with Lutkemeyer delivering her own 6-3 win not long after. While Tian did not conclude her first set as early as her teammates – dropping four games after going up 4-0 – she clinched her overall match first behind a 6-1 second-set decision.

“Although I was up 4-0 and then struggled a little bit, I was able to step it up,” Tian said. “I feel like just being more conscious of what I’m doing on court and being more positive really helped me.”

Following Tian, Lutkemeyer secured her second singles win of the weekend by repeating her first set performance and leaving court five with a 6-3, 6-3 decision. Two minutes later, Fernandez clinched the win for UCLA with a 6-3, 6-4 score on court three, securing the Bruins’ sweep.

Fernandez said since her coaches advised her not to concentrate on the scoreboard during a match, she was unaware her win clinched the victory for her team until she saw everyone celebrating.

“I’m really happy that I won it,” Fernandez said. “It is just another match, it’s the beginning of the season, but the excitement is just coming to hug my teammates and just doing it with them.”

Tian added that the weekend’s sweep is what the team needed.

“This win, especially today’s (Saturday’s) win, it’s what we’ve been looking for for a long time, especially coming from last year, lost to them twice, and I feel like it’s a really big, big win for us.”

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Olivia Simons | Quad editor
Simons is the 2023-2024 Quad editor and a Sports senior staffer on the women's tennis beat. She was previously the 2022-2023 managing editor, an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's tennis, men's tennis, swim and dive and rowing beats and a reporter on the baseball and women's tennis beats. She is also a fourth-year student from Oakland, California.
Simons is the 2023-2024 Quad editor and a Sports senior staffer on the women's tennis beat. She was previously the 2022-2023 managing editor, an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's tennis, men's tennis, swim and dive and rowing beats and a reporter on the baseball and women's tennis beats. She is also a fourth-year student from Oakland, California.
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