Huskies Upset No. 4 UCLA To Make Indoor Nationals
LOS ANGELES – For the first time in program history, Washington women's tennis went onto UCLA's home courts and beat the Bruins. The Huskies (5-0) upset the fourth-ranked Bruins by a 4-3 count at the Los Angeles Tennis Center, and qualified for the ITA National Team Indoor Championships held next month in Madison, Wisconsin. It is just the third win ever for UW over UCLA, the prior two wins coming in Seattle back in 2003 and 2001.
"We talked yesterday after our win against Denver about how our competitive identity wasn't quite where it needed to be," said Head Coach Robin Stephenson. "We committed to coming out today with a better mindset and giving ourselves the freedom to play to win and to trust our preparation and to embrace any challenges we faced. We knew that in order to win today on their home courts that we needed to create our own environment and play unified and we needed to fight for every point on every court. We had our backs against the wall at different times but we refused to give in and kept finding ways to battle. I am so proud of the mental toughness we displayed and that when things got tough we were able to up our level and problem-solve effectively."
The epic early season back-and-forth battle was capped off when a Bruin shot sailed long and senior Nika Zupancic collapsed onto the court moments before the rest of the squad jumped on top of her. Zupancic had the third-straight singles win for the Huskies after UCLA had taken a 3-1 lead. She finished the comeback by upsetting 49th-ranked Sasha Vagramov, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.
To tie things up, the Huskies got huge wins from junior Hikaru Sato, 7-6 (5), 6-4, over Kimmi Hance at No. 4 singles, and then Sarah-Maude Fortin had one of her biggest wins, beating Elysia Bolton, a player previously ranked in the top-10 nationally, by a 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 count at No. 2 singles.
Stephenson said why beating UCLA means so much. "I have tremendous respect for their program and their coaching staff and players," she said. "They are always one of the best teams in the nation and we knew it would take everyone to get the win today. We have a group that has an incredible work ethic and the belief that's needed to win at a high level and when you combine those two things great things happen. We also have a team that cares deeply about each other and our community and you can feel that in the way we compete. Today was a great step for this team and our program overall, but it's a small step in what we want to ultimately achieve. We are excited to get to National Indoors as that was one of our goals for this season and it will be great to put ourselves up against more of the best teams in the country this early in the season."
The Huskies had staged an earlier dramatic win in the doubles point, which would prove decisive. UCLA won the No. 1 doubles match, 6-3, but the No. 2 and No. 3 matches were both tied at 5-5, with UW needing to win both. Fortin and Zupancic came through with the last two games to win, 7-5, over Ava Catanzarite and Abbey Forbes at No. 2. Then Zoey Weil and Kelly Leung went to a tiebreak at No. 3, and won the breaker, 7-5, over Vanessa Ong and Sasha Vagramov to get UW the 1-0 lead.
Washington will now get to compete in the prestigious sixteen-team ITA National Team Indoor Championships, held Feb. 11-14 at Wisconsin. The Huskies hosted the National Team Indoors back in 2019 and were entered automatically, so this is their first time reaching the tourney via two qualifying wins since 2011. It will be Washington's seventh all-time appearance, the first one coming in 2001.
Before their Madison trip, the Huskies will look to keep the momentum going next week with two more tough road matches, at Rice on Feb. 4, and at 22nd-ranked Baylor on Feb. 6.
Washington Women's Tennis
ITA Kickoff Weekend Final
January 29, 2022
Los Angeles Tennis Center | Los Angeles, Calif.
Washington – 4
No. 4 UCLA – 3
1. (#68) Abbey Forbes (UCLA) def. Vanessa Wong (UW) – 6-1, 6-4
2. Sarah-Maude Fortin (UW) def. Elysia Bolton (UCLA) – 6-4, 1-6, 7-5
3. Nika Zupancic (UW) def. (#49) Sasha Vagramov (UCLA) – 6-4, 4-6, 6-2
4. Hikaru Sato (UW) def. Kimmi Hance (UCLA) – 7-6 (5), 6-4
5. Elsie Wagle (UCLA) def. Tara Chilton (UW) – 7-5, 6-1
6. Ava Catanzarite (UCLA) def. Kelly Leung (UW) – 6-4, 6-3
Order of Finish: 1, 6, 5, 4, 2, 3
1. Bolton/Wagle (UCLA) def. Wong/Sato (UW) – 6-3
2. Zupancic/Fortin (UW) def. Catanzarite/Forbes (UCLA) – 7-5
3. Leung/Weil (UW) def. Ong/Vagramov (UCLA) – 7-6 (5)
Order of Finish: 1, 2, 3