#23 UCLA Women’s Tennis (14-8, 7-3)
Opponent: #12 Pepperdine (22-4, 9-0)
When: 12:00 PM PT, Saturday, May 13, 2017
Where: Ralphs-Straus Tennis Center, Malibu, CA
Live Stats: Pepperdine Live Stats
Yesterday the Bruins made a strong start in the first round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament with a 4-0 victory over UC Santa Barbara. However, UCLA's second round opponent--#12 Pepperdine--represents a significantly stiffer challenge, so the Bruins will have to play some final tennis today to extend their season beyond this weekend.
The Bruins wasted no time in getting on the scoreboard against the Gauchos. The duo of Ena Shibahara and Kristin Wiley cruised to a 6-1 win on doubles court 3, and Gabby Andrews & Alaina Miller put the finishing touches on a 6-2 victory on court 2 soon after to give UCLA the doubles point.
UCLA's performance on the singles courts was a little less impressive. The Bruins dropped first sets on courts 3, 4, 5, and 6 before fighting back on each court to level the score. Meanwhile, Ena Shibahara earned UCLA's second point of the day with a straight set win (6-3, 6-4) on the top court.
Alaina Miller claimed the third point of the contest when she fought back on court 4 for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory. Shortly after on court 2, Terri Fleming logged a tough 7-6 (6), 6-2 win on court 2 to grab the fourth and deciding point of the match.
The Waves advanced to today's second round contest with a 4-0 demolition of LIU Brooklyn. Pepperdine dropped just one set in knocking the Blackbirds out of the tournament.
In fact, Pepperdine has been dominating opponents for several months now. The Waves are riding an impressive 17-match winning streak that dates back to early March, and during that unbeaten run, they have swept the opposition 13 times.
Pepperdine has an impressive singles lineup, too. The Waves top-ranked player is Luisa Stefani who is #14 in the latest ITA rankings. Stefani's teammate, Ashley Lahey, isn't far behind at #19, and although Mayar Sherif Ahmed has dropped in the recent rankings, she still boasts a #37 ranking. Laura Gulbe is the fourth Pepperdine singles player to appear in the ITA rankings; she's #97 in the latest ranking.
By comparison, only one Bruin--Ena Shibahara at #5--is ranked in singles in the ITA top-125.
An early season battle with the Waves did not go the Bruins' way. Pepperdine defeated then ninth-ranked UCLA 5-2 back in February at Sunset Canyon. UCLA snagged points on courts 3 and 4 through Jada Hart and Alaina Miller, respectively, but Pepperdine won in straight sets on all of the other singles courts, and the Waves claimed the doubles point relatively handily as well.
None of this bodes well for the Bruins. Pepperdine is red-hot at the moment, and aside from yesterday's sweep of UCSB, the UCLA has not been playing well since mid-April. If the Bruins are going to pull off an upset--and in my opinion, it would be a big upset--they will have to snare the doubles point and get at least two points on the top four courts. That would give UCLA a chance to extend its postseason beyond this weekend and likely set the Bruins up for an extremely tough match against #5 Georgia.
Finally, congratulations to Ena Shibahara for becoming the first player in Pac-12 history to be selected as Singles Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year.
Congratulations also to Terri Fleming and Jada Hart, the Pac-12 Doubles Team of the Year.