Court Coverage With Nina Pantic

Feb. 23, 2011

I'm writing this while on the plane heading back from the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Charlottesville, Virginia. Our very relaxed pilot has just announced that there is a good five hours and 45 minutes left of the flight (something I'm hoping is a sick joke). Anyway, in recent weeks the UCLA women's tennis team has played top teams such as Cal, Stanford, Clemson, Miami, and Baylor. We've gotten the opportunity to see some of the toughest competition in the nation, and coming back from Indoors we have gained some solid match experience and some insight on what we'll be up against for the rest of the season.

To start things off, the southern hospitality that we received while in Virginia was unbelievable and quite a contrast to the sometimes sour Southern California atmosphere. The University of Virginia hosted the tournament this year so instead of being in the snow of Wisconsin like last year, we had temperatures in the 60s and sunny skies. However, I think our team was a little disappointed to not be able to have the 2nd annual snowball fight. And it definitely was nice to stroll over from the hotel to the courts in a light jacket and no gloves or hats. I loved the southern hospitality in Virginia. For one thing, everyone's super friendly and they all have a cute, southern twang. We also thoroughly enjoyed tea time! Every afternoon from 3 to 5 p.m. our the staff at the Boar's Head Inn laid out an array of teas, coffee, cheesecake, chocolate cake, tarts, and cookies. So while the DoubleTree Hotel that we stayed at during the Stanford/Cal trip two weeks ago had complimentary warm chocolate chip cookies at our disposal, it cannot compete with afternoon tea.

While on the subject of food, I need to mention that we happened to come across a unique frozen yogurt shop in Virginia called Arch's. While we're all extremely fond of the Yogurtland in Westwood, and possibly single-handedly the reason it's a booming business, Arch's offered a new experience. Favorites were the Ooey Gooey Brownie, served over crisp, tart yogurt accompanied by toppings such as cookie dough, graham crackers, and Oreos. On our last night we decided to break a few rules and go to a rather unhealthy and chaotic restaurant for pizza instead of our usual strict pasta and chicken places. The Mellow Mushroom was anything but mellow with an "Alice in Wonderland" theme and a lively crowd that packed every nook and cranny. Junior Carling Seguso didn't let the pizza and cheese bread distract her from making a move on the young employee who was making pizza in the kitchen near our table. She made the first move (listen up guys!) and handed him a napkin with a few seductive words on it (by which I mean, her name, number, and "text me"). Naturally the entire team behaved like socially inept middle school girls and couldn't stop staring and laughing at the whole situation, making their "love at first sight" experience extremely awkward. Regardless, the guy (who will remain nameless) actually texted her the next day! While he was ruggedly cute, I'm sure that it was his pizza dough tossing skills that caught Carling's eye.

Back to some serious topics now, I'd say that one of the disadvantages of playing a multiple day tournament is the excessive amount of treatment and icing that is needed in order to keep our bodies able and moving. Sarah, our student trainer, gets the honor of traveling with us and thus gets to deal with our problems. When it comes to on-court treatment, massages and tape jobs, we're all very willing and receptive. But the second she mentions "ice bath" we turn into three-year-old toddlers ready to throw a hissy fit. I won't name names but Mcall and Noelle are the absolute biggest babies when it comes to ice baths. While Sarah is here to help us compete at our very best every day and has nothing but good intentions, some of us are still brave enough to try to fight her when it comes to ice baths. To be fair, the ice baths at away games are terrible since the amount of ice thrown into the hotel bathtubs isn't measured for temperature like our ice bath at home. If you're unlucky enough, a 12-minute dip could end up being lethal!

So after three grueling matches at the ITA National Indoor Championships, we got to spend a few hours sightseeing in Washington, D.C. before our evening flight. While our volunteer assistant coach Bill Zaima headed off to tour the monuments and historic sites, the rest of us hit Georgetown to eat and do some shopping. Somehow I managed to lose my wallet in the hotel which meant a very depressing, poor day of shopping. But more importantly it raised the issue of how on earth was I supposed to get through airport security without an I.D.? And although a certain UCLA men's tennis player showed the airport security officers a picture from the Bruin website roster as alternate identification a few weeks ago, the security officers I had refused to give it more than a glance before leading me into an intense interrogation. Clearly the men's tennis player must have more charm than I do. Anyway, I'm proud to say that after an unwelcomed physical pat down - that coach Webster and our manager Amanda thoroughly enjoyed videotaping - I was in.

Amanda is our new manager this year and she's just now adjusting to the 24/7 drama that is UCLA women's tennis. Our old manager, Becky Duesler, filled the role for three years while majoring in Geography and minoring in Spanish. She was also on the team for her freshman year. She was our lifeline when it came to everything from clothing sizes, food orders, organizing trips, etc. She also had the privilege of solving our minor problems, smoothing over potential dilemmas, and staying cool in a full blown crisis. Every day Becky helped each member of our team and every coach and staff member with a huge smile on her face and she strived above and beyond her role as team manager. She's currently in Peru teaching English at an orphanage in Cuzco. She will then move on to teach adults English in Lima. We all miss you Becky and hope everything's going well out there!!!

Our season continues this week with a match at Pepperdine on Friday at 1:30 p.m. But don't forget about next week when we take on the Trojans at home Wednesday, also at 1:30. Hope to see you there...GO BRUINS!

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