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Bruins Live Up To 1999 Expectations
By: UCLA Athletics

Dec. 17, 1999

Entering the season as the No. 2 ranked team in the nation, there is no question that the 1999 UCLA women's tennis team had high expectations to live up to. Some considered the Bruins a lock to reach the NCAA finals and challenge for the national championship. However UCLA's season came to an abrupt end in the NCAA Regional Final as South Alabama pulled off perhaps the biggest upset of the tournament, knocking off the Bruins 5-2, subsequently dashing UCLA's hopes to win its second national title. The Bruins finished the season with an 18-8 overall record and a No. 7 ranking in the final poll.

UCLA lived up to its preseason billing, starting the season with a five-match win streak, including wins over No. 33 San Diego, No. 24 Arizona, No. 12 Arizona State and No. 15 Pepperdine. The Bruins hit their first road bump of the season against cross-town rival USC on Feb. 13, falling 3-6. Despite a loss in their next match to No. 3 Georgia in the first round of the National Team Indoors in Madison, Wisc., the Bruins rebounded to defeat No. 16 Notre Dame and No. 29 Wisconsin, finishing the tournament 1-1.

Following the loss to Georgia, UCLA went on to win nine of its next 10 matches, registering wins over No. 7 William & Mary, No. 12 Arizona State and No. 13 USC. Although the Bruins exacted revenge for their early season loss to the Trojans, the victory was bittersweet as Bruin No. 1 Cristina Popescu tore her patella tendon in that match. It was an injury that would sideline her for the remainder of the season.

With Popescu out of the lineup and the two toughest months of the season - April and May - still ahead, head coach Stella Sampras had to make some changes. Everyone slid up one spot in the singles lineup, with Annica Cooper taking over the No. 1 position. However, the Bruins were hardest hit in doubles as Popescu and partner Petya Marinova, who were 8-1 before the injury, were no longer able to play. It showed in the results, as the Bruins dropped a total of four matches to Stanford and Cal in the month of April, taking them out of contention for the 1999 Pac-10 title.

Despite dropping four out of its last seven matches in the final month of the regular season, UCLA was still selected to host NCAA Regionals, positioning them for a spot in the NCAA Championships in Florida. After easily defeating Western Michigan 5-0 in the first round, the Bruins ran into a tough and inspired South Alabama squad, falling 5-2 and ending their season premature.

Though UCLA's hopes at a team title were dashed, the Bruins still had two players in the individual portion of the Championships, as Cooper and Amanda Basica were in the singles and doubles draws. Cooper won her first-round singles match over Andrea Piski of Auburn 6-3, 6-4, but fell in the second round to Georgia's Aarthi Venkatesan 6-4, 6-1. Basica also won her first-round match, defeating Central Florida's Maria Widyadharma 6-3, 6-2. Like Cooper, she was defeated in the second round, falling to Florida's Whitney Laiho 7-5, 6-3. As a doubles team, Basica and Cooper advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to No. 2 seeded Goldstein/Webb of Duke 6-1, 6-1.

When it was all said and done, both Cooper and Basica earned All-America honors. The Bruins had three players named All-Pac-10, with Cooper taking home first-team honors. Basica and Popescu were named honorable mention.

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