The fifth-seeded UCLA women’s tennis team (23-2) advanced through NCAA Regional play last weekend at the Los Angeles Tennis Center and now turns its focus to the round of 16 of the NCAA Championships, beginning this Thursday in Athens, Ga. The Bruins will take on 12th-seeded Miami (21-5) on Thursday at 4:00 p.m. (PST) on the McWhorter Courts at Georgia’s Dan Magill Tennis Complex. The winner of that match will meet either fourth-seeded Duke or 13th-seeded Clemson on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. (PST).
UCLA at the NCAA Championships
Only three teams (UCLA, Stanford and Cal) have made the NCAA Tournament every year since women’s tennis became an NCAA sport in 1982. The Bruins’ selection to the 2014 tournament marks the team’s 33rd appearance. UCLA captured its only NCAA title in 2008 in Tulsa, Okla. (UCLA def. Cal, 4-0). The Bruins’ only other national title was in 1981 when the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) was the governing body of women’s tennis.
UCLA vs. the NCAA Round of 16
UCLA owns a 6-2 record this year against the other 15 teams still alive in the NCAA Championships. The Bruins’ wins have come over USC (three times), Cal, Stanford and Baylor. UCLA’s two losses on the year were against Duke and Cal. The Bruins could meet Duke in the quarterfinals, however would not get another shot at Cal unless both teams advanced to the final.
Doubles has been a big area of strength for the team this season, as the Bruins have won the doubles point in all 25 matches this season. In fact, UCLA has dropped just five doubles matches in dual-match play all year (the Bruins are 51-5 in duals). As a result, UCLA two top doubles teams are both ranked in the top 10 in the nation, with Robin Anderson and Jennifer Brady checking in at No. 1, followed by Catherine Harrison and Kyle McPhillips at No. 9. Anderson and Brady are the top-seeded team in the NCAA Doubles draw and are 19-1 in dual matches and 28-2 overall. Harrison and McPhillips will also be competing in the NCAA Doubles draw and take a 21-1 dual-match record (23-2 overall) into the round of 16.
UCLA Dominates Regional Opponents
The Bruins advanced through NCAA Regional action at the Los Angeles Tennis Center on May 9 and 10 without dropping a match, downing both Sacramento State (1st round) and Ole Miss (2nd round) by identical 4-0 scores. It marked the third-straight year that UCLA advanced through NCAA Regionals without surrendering a point.
Brady Emerges as Serious Threat
Freshman Jennifer Brady’s transition from junior tennis to the college ranks has been a smooth one to say the least, as the Boca Raton, Fla. native leads UCLA in both overall victories (35) and dual-match victories (19). She is also ranked in the top 10 nationally in both singles and doubles, checking in at No. 8 in singles and No. 1 in doubles with partner Robin Anderson. Brady, who plays No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles for the Bruins, was recently named the ITA’s Rookie of the Year for the Southwest Region and is now in contention for the national award.
UCLA in the ITA Rankings
UCLA, which has been ranked as high as No. 1 in the nation as recently as April 22, currently checks in at No. 3 in the ITA Rankings released on May 1. The Bruins have been ranked in the top 5 all season. After starting out the year tied for No. 5, UCLA has been ranked in the top 3 nationally since Feb. 11. Individually, the Bruins have five players ranked in singles led by Robin Anderson at No. 2. Jennifer Brady (No. 8) and Chanelle Van Nguyen (No. 13) are also ranked in the top 20. Rounding out the list are Kyle McPhillips (No. 38) and Catherine Harrison (No. 75). In doubles, the Bruins have two teams in the top 10 in Anderson/Brady (No. 1) and Harrison/McPhillips (No. 9).
Freshman Jennifer Brady owns the longest winning streak on the team at 21. She has not lost a singles match since falling to Hanna Mar of Duke on Feb. 10 in the final of the USTA/ITA National Team Indoors. Since that loss she has won 21 in a row, 18 of which came in straight sets. The last player to take a set off of Brady was Stanford’s Krista Hardebeck on April 4. Robin Anderson also has a streak of her own, taking an 11-match winning streak into Thursday’s showdown with Miami.
Last Year at the NCAA Championships
As a team, UCLA reached the semifinals of the NCAA Championships in 2013, suffering a close 4-3 loss to Texas A&M at the University of Illinois’ Atkins Tennis Center. Texas A&M’s Ines Deheza downed Chanelle Van Nguyen, 6-3, 7-6(9), 6-4 in the deciding match at No. 4 singles. The highlight of last year’s individual championships for UCLA came in doubles, where Robin Anderson and Skylar Morton reached the final, falling to USC’s Kaitlin Christian and Sabrina Santamaria, 6-4, 6-3. Anderson and Morton were looking to become UCLA’s seventh team to win an NCAA Doubles title and first since 2008 (Lin/Zalameda). In singles last year, Anderson lost in the round of 16 to Nebraska’s Mary Weatherholt.
Bruins Reach National Indoor Final
UCLA reached the final at the USTA/ITA National Team Indoors for the third year in a row in 2014, suffering a 4-3 loss to Duke in Charlottesville, Va. It was a rematch of the 2012 Indoor final, a match the Bruins won 4-0 to claim the school’s first-ever championship at the event. UCLA also played in the final of the Indoors in 2013, suffering a 4-3 loss to North Carolina.
Ray’s Successful Return to Action
Bruin junior Kaitlin Ray has seen her share of ups and downs since arriving at UCLA as a freshman in 2011. The Little Rock, Ark. native started her college career with a bang, losing just three matches her freshman year to post a 29-3 overall record. Unfortunately, she suffered an intercostal muscle tear with three regular season matches remaining, an injury that eventually sidelined her for the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournaments. Ray returned to action the following fall, but in January suffered a torn tendon in her right ring finger, requiring anther layoff from tennis. She played sparingly her sophomore season and again did not see any action in the postseason. This year, however, Ray has been healthy and again appears to be a significant contributor to the Bruin lineup. Although she has eased her way back into the lineup by playing a limited schedule, she is expected to be the Bruins’ No. 6 singles player for the remainder of the NCAA Tournament.
Bruins Win Back-to-Back Pac-12 Singles Titles
When freshman Jennifer Brady took home this year’s Pac-12 Singles Championship, it marked the second year in a row that a Bruin freshman has won the event. Sophomore Kyle McPhillips won the title in her first season of college tennis in 2013, downing good friend Krista Hardebeck of Stanford, 6-0, 6-1 in the title match. Brady was also a straight-set winner this year, beating USC’s Zoe Scandalis, 6-4, 6-0.
Head Coach Stella Sampras Webster
The 2012 ITA National Coach of the Year, Stella Sampras Webster is in her 18th season as head coach of the UCLA women’s tennis program, taking a career record of 318-129 (.711) into the 2014 season. She is only the third head coach in UCLA women’s tennis history, following Bill Zaima (1972-76 & 1986-96) and Gayle Godwin (1977-86). In 2008, Sampras Webster led UCLA to the school’s first NCAA Championship in women’s tennis and first national championship since 1981 (AIAW). It marked the 102nd NCAA title in UCLA history (UCLA leads the nation in NCAA titles with 110.