Opponent: #10 Texas A&M (17-5)
When: Friday, May 15, 7:00 AM PDT
Where: Hurd Tennis Center, Waco, TX
Watch Online: Baylor Live Video
Live Stats: Baylor Live Stats
Live Blog: Baylor In-Match Blog
UCLA Resources: UCLA Official Preview | UCLA Media Guide
NCAA Resources: NCAA Digital Tournament Program | NCAA Bracket
The Bruins Tame the Wildcats
The Bruins eliminated #26 Northwestern in the second round of the NCAA tournament with a relatively easy 4-0 win. In doubles play, Robin Anderson & Jennifer Brady were in terrific form, defeating their opponents 8-1. But in a surprising and disappointing result, Chanelle Van Nguyen & Kristin Wiley were soundly defeated, 1-8. That left the doubles point in the hands of Catherine Harrison and Kyle McPhillips, and they delivered with a 8-4 win over the Wildcats pair.
With the doubles point in hand, the Bruins got down to business in singles. UCLA won the first set on each court except on court 6 where Kaitlin Ray struggled to find her rhythm. Catherine Harrison has been playing fantastic tennis for over a month now, so it came as no surprise that she was the first Bruin to win a singles point with her 6-1, 6-1 victory on court 4. Robin Anderson earned the Bruins' second singles point when she won her duel on court 1, 6-1, 6-2. Finally, Northwestern's day was done when Chanelle Van Nguyen swept her opponent, 6-3, 6-3.
When UCLA captured its fourth point of the day, Jennifer Brady was up a set on court 3 (6-0, 4-4) and Kyle McPhillips was up a set on court 5 (6-4, 2-1), while Kaitlin Ray was down a set on court 6 (4-6, 2-3).
As the final 4-0 score indicates, it was a strong performance by the Bruins, but it did raise a few points of concern. In particular, considering how important the doubles point is in team tennis, Van Nguyen and Wiley have to produce a better performance today to give the Bruins a good start in the match.
UCLA in the ITA Rankings
Although the Bruins are the seventh-seeded team in the NCAA tournament, they are ranked sixth nationally by the ITA, and UCLA has six players ranked in the top-125 in the country. According to the official site:
UCLA is currently ranked No. 6 in the nation in the ITA team rankings (May 1). Individually, Robin Anderson checks in at No. 1 in the country. She is joined in the top 25 by No. 21 Chanelle Van Nguyen. Other ranked singles players include: No. 33 Catherine Harrison, No. 35 Kyle McPhillips, No. 47 Jennifer Brady and No. 109 Kaitlin Ray. In doubles, Harrison and McPhillips are ranked No. 3, followed by Anderson and Brady at No. 9. UCLA, Cal and Stanford are the only three schools in the country with two doubles teams ranked in the top 10 nationally.
Scouting the Aggies
Texas A&M (17-5) is currently tenth in the ITA national rankings. Three of the Aggies' five losses this season have come against top-5 teams: #2 Georgia, #3 North Carolina, and #5 Florida. Texas A&M also has losses against #17 TCU and #24 LSU.
The Aggies biggest wins this season are a pair of victories over #7 Baylor, and a defeat of #8 Vanderbilt. The Bruins also beat Baylor when they met in Waco in the first week of March.
Texas A&M has three players in the ITA national singles rankings. Sophomore Rachel Pierson leads the way for the Aggies at #26. Sophomore Saska Gavrilovska from Serbia is ranked 54th, and sophomore Rutuja Bhosale from India is ranked 66th.
The Aggies have a pair of ITA nationally-ranked doubles teams. Freshman Eva Paalma from Estonia and Pierson form the 13th-ranked team in the country, while junior Ines Deheza from Bolivia partners with junior Stefania Hristov from Romania as the 39th-ranked doubles team.
The Aggies have opened the NCAA tournament in impressive fashion. In their first round matchup against Alcorn State, the Aggies didn't drop a set in winning the match, and in doubles, Alcorn State didn't even manage to win a game in two of the duels.
Texas A&M blanked TCU 4-0 in their second round match. The key to the Aggies victory was their strong performance on the bottom courts--Texas A&M took the match without winning a singles point from any of its ranked players.
- Court 1: #9 Robin Anderson/Jennifer Brady (UCLA) vs. #13 Eva Paalma/Rachel Pierson (A&M)
- Court 2: #3 Catherine Harrison/Kyle McPhillips (UCLA) vs. #39 Ines Deheza/Stefania Hristov (A&M)
- Court 3: Chanelle Van Nguyen/Kristin Wiley (UCLA) vs. Rutuja Bhosale/Saska Gavrilovska (A&M)
- Court 1: #1 Robin Anderson (UCLA) vs. #26 Rachel Pierson (A&M)
- Court 2: #21 Chanelle Van Nguyen (UCLA) vs. #54 Saska Gavrilovska (A&M)
- Court 3: #47 Jennifer Brady (UCLA) vs. #66 Rutuja Bhosale (A&M)
- Court 4: #33 Catherine Harrison (UCLA) vs. Ines Deheza (A&M)
- Court 5: #35 Kyle McPhillips (UCLA) vs. Eva Paalma (A&M)
- Court 6: #109 Kaitlin Ray (UCLA) vs. Stefania Hristov (A&M)
What to Expect
Unfortunately, the match conditions (location, time, weather) favor the Aggies. As we saw in the men's match yesterday, those factors do matter, and in particular, it's important for UCLA to keep rain delays from disrupting individual performances.
However, the Bruins have superior talent and plenty of experience in NCAA tournament competition. That doesn't mean that it will be easy for UCLA, but it does mean that the Bruins should prevail.
One of the key battles to watch today will be the doubles contest on court 3. Chanelle Van Nguyen and Kristin Wiley need to bounce back from a poor performance last week. Another key battle to keep an eye on will be the singles match on court 3 between Jennifer Brady and Rutuja Bhosale. Bhosale struggled in her singles contest last week against TCU, and Brady hasn't returned to top form since returning from her injury.
Prediction: UCLA 4, Texas A&M 2