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‘Pressure is a privilege’: UCLA women’s tennis on precipice of conference win

Sophomore Anne-Christine Lutkemeyer swings her racket to hit the tennis ball on the court. Friday’s matchup against USC marks UCLA women’s tennis’ last regular-season match. (Tszshan Huang/Daily Bruin)

Women's Tennis


USC
Friday, 1:30 p.m.

Marks Stadium
No TV info

By Elise Oliver

April 18, 2024 12:05 p.m.

This post was updated April 18 at 10:31 p.m.

The pressure is mounting.

The Bruins broke into the top 10.

And if they play their cards right, they could wear two crowns by the weekend’s end.

Coming off of a 5-0 shutout of Oregon last weekend, No. 10 UCLA women’s tennis (16-4, 8-1 Pac-12) will head across town to face No. 11 USC (17-6, 8-1) on Friday afternoon. In what will be their last match of the regular season, the Bruins seek to win their third straight battle against their long-standing rival and take home first in the conference – or stand tied, provided No. 9 California knocks off No. 3 Stanford that same day.

Sophomore Anne-Christine Lutkemeyer – who boasts a team-high 17 singles wins this season – said the team’s track record against USC doesn’t guarantee an easy match ahead.

“It’s going to be a really tough match,” Lutkemeyer said. “They’re obviously one of our biggest rivals. We’re trying to stay locked in, stay focused and take it one point at a time.”

The Trojans fell 5-2 to the Bruins earlier this season. A win for UCLA will extend its winning streak to seven and secure its 15th victory in its last 16 matches.

The Bruins have notched two 4-3, top-10 victories, first against then-No. 3 Stanford on March 31, followed by a win against No. 3 Pepperdine on April 11.

“They’ve got a great mindset right now,” said coach Stella Sampras Webster. “Everyone’s fired up and ready for this. We started from, I think, ranked 36 in the country at the beginning of the year and worked our way into the top 10, which is awesome.”

The journey upward was anything but smooth sailing in the beginning, as it came with some narrow defeats against ranked opponents. However, junior Elise Wagle – reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week – said these setbacks served as powerful motivation for her team.

“I think a big factor was losing to Oklahoma State, 4-3, at the beginning of the season,” Wagle said. “Being that close to one of the best teams in the country motivated us and told us that we’re right up there with the big dogs.”

Sampras Webster echoed Wagle’s statements and added that she tried to impart to her team that they should embrace the pressure they have faced throughout the season and use it to propel them forward.

“Pressure is a privilege,” Sampras Webster said, drawing inspiration from the phrase often attributed to tennis legend Billie Jean King. “It’s such a great opportunity to have this pressure on us.”

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