When: Saturday, May 9, 12:01 PM PDT
Where: Los Angeles Tennis Center, Los Angeles, CA
Live Stats: UCLA Live Stats
UCLA Resources: UCLA Official Preview
NCAA Resources: NCAA Digital Tournament Program | NCAA Bracket
Our 6th-ranked Bruins face the Idaho Vandals this afternoon in a first round NCAA tournament match. As one of the tournament's top 16 teams, UCLA is hosting first and second round tournament action this weekend.
Checking in on the Bruins
The Bruins (18-4) haven't been on the court as a team since they suffered a 4-3 loss to Southern Cal three weeks ago. The regular season ending loss to the Trojans was particularly painful since it cost the Bruins a share of the Pac-12 title.
After that loss, half a dozen Bruins competed in the Pac-12 Championship and Invitational tournaments. Catherine Harrison won the Pac-12 Championship Singles title, and Terri Fleming finished as runner-up in the Pac-12 Invitational Singles event. Kaitlin Ray also played well in the Pac-12 Invitational tournament, but came up short against Fleming in a Pac-12 Invitational semifinal. In addition to Catherine Harrison's triumph, the Bruins won the Thatcher Cup based on UCLA's results throughout the entirety of Pac-12 tournament play.
Although the Bruins haven't competed as a team for over three weeks, the defending national champions have a strong squad that has the talent and experience to make a deep tournament run. UCLA is led by Robin Anderson, the nation's top-ranked player. UCLA's No. 2, Jennifer Brady, is currently ranked 47th by the ITA, but her position in the rankings reflects her long absence from the court due to injury.
Chanelle Van Nguyen is the Bruins' No. 3; she's ranked 21st by the ITA. Van Nguyen is followed closely in the ITA rankings by teammates Kyle McPhillips (UCLA's No. 4) and Catherine Harrison (UCLA's No. 5) at 35th and 33rd, respectively. The Bruins' No. 6 is Kaitlin Ray, and she checks in at 109 in the ITA national rankings.
The Bruins are also well-represented in the ITA doubles rankings. Anderson & Brady are ranked 9th, and Harrison & McPhillips are ranked 3rd. Chanelle Van Nguyen will probably be paired with Kristin Wiley to complete the UCLA doubles lineup.
Scouting the Vandals
The Vandals qualified for the NCAA tournament by beating Sacramento State for the Big Sky Conference Championship. The 4-3 victory over the Hornets in the Big Sky tournament reversed a 4-3 regular season loss to Sacramento State nearly three months ago.
The Vandals are not ranked in the most recent ITA top-75 for Division 1. None of Idaho's players appear on the ITA's ranking of the top 125 singles players in the nation, and the Vandals haven't placed any of their doubles teams in the top-90 of the current ITA rankings.
It's worth noting that Idaho played three Pac-12 teams (Arizona, Washington State, Oregon) this season and lost all three matches. However, the Vandals did manage to take a point against Washington State and two points against Oregon. UCLA beat each of those three Pac-12 opponents, surrendering only 2 points along the way.
In doubles, the Vandals are likely to set up this way:
- Court 1 - Galina Bykova & Emmie Marx
- Court 2 - Belen Barcenilla & Sophie Vickers
- Court 3 - Lucia Badillos & Rita Bermudez
In singles, Idaho will almost certainly set up this way:
- Court 1 - Galina Bykova
- Court 2 - Emmie Marx
- Court 3 - Sophie Vickers
- Court 4 - Rita Bermudez
- Court 5 - Belen Barcenilla
- Court 6 - Lucia Badillos
The Vandals are a truly international squad, with only Rita Bermudez from the United States.
For what it's worth, sophomore Galina Bykova was the Big Sky MVP. Emmie Marx and Bykova earned Big Sky First Team honors, Sophie Vickers was selected to the Big Sky Second Team, and Belen Barcenilla was Honorable Mention.
What to Expect
As defending national champions and the sixth-ranked team in the country, the Bruins are well-positioned to make quick work of early round tournament opponents and to contend for another national championship. Idaho simply doesn't have the players to compete with UCLA, so I'll be very surprised if the Bruins don't shut out the Vandals. If the Bruins struggle at all today, it will be a reason for concern.