UCLA eases past Rice
Bruins to square off against Cal on Saturday afternoon
ATHENS, Ga. -- Top-seeded UCLA got off to a solid start in the round of 16 of the NCAA championships on Thursday at Georgia's Dan Magill Tennis Complex, dispatching of unseeded Rice, 4-0.
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The Bruins (24-2) now advance to Saturday's quarterfinals and will meet ninth-seeded Cal at Noon (ET). The Bears dispatched of Georgia Tech, 4-0 on Thursday.
"This is the NCAAs and for a lot of my team this is their first time playing here," said UCLA head coach Stella Sampras Webster. "So I think in the beginning of the doubles, we started off a little slow at 2 and 3. Rice, we knew, was going to fight. We just wanted to go out and play tennis like we've been doing all season and the girls did a great job of not getting overwhelmed with the moment."
While the Bruin freshmen have garnered much of the spotlight this season, it was UCLA's two seniors, McCall Jones and Carling Seguso, who shined on Thursday. The Bruin duo teamed together in doubles at court No. 3, downing Kim Anicete and Stephanie Nguyen, 8-2. Both players also accounted for two of the team's three singles wins. Jones was first off at court No. 2, downing Dominique Harmath, 6-0, 6-1. Seguso was nearly as impressive at court No. 6, as she beat Nguyen, 6-3, 6-1 for the team's third point of the day.
The singles win by Jones marked her first victory in the NCAA tournament after both of her regional matches were suspended once the match was clinched.
"I wanted to make sure I finished," said Jones of her quick singles win. "I've played so many matches where I could possibly win and I never get to finish because my teammates are all so good that they finish before me and I don't get a win. I wanted to get a win for my confidence. I think it was good to get out the nervousness in doubles because when we went into singles, I felt no nerves at all."
Robin Anderson would get the clinching win for UCLA at the No. 1 position, where the fourth-ranked Bruin freshman was a 6-0, 6-4 winner against 36th-ranked Natalie Beazant. With the win, Anderson picked up her 20th victory against a ranked singles opponent this season. She also notched her team-leading 33rd singles win.
UCLA and Cal have met twice this season with each team winning on its home courts. The Bruins beat the Bears, 4-3 in Los Angeles on Feb. 24, while Cal returned the favor, also winning 4-3, on April 13 in Berkeley. Cal halted UCLA's undefeated season, as the Bruins took a 20-0 record into that showdown.
This season marks the time that the Bruins are the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. UCLA's previous highest seeding was No. 2 in 1994.
"We're usually the underdogs coming here," said Sampras Webster. "Our biggest thing is just trying to not get caught up in [being the No. 1 seed]. The team has done a great job of just playing tennis and staying focused."
One interesting side note of Thursday's match is that Rice is coached by former UCLA All-American Elizabeth Schmidt, who played for Sampras Webster at UCLA from 1997-2000.
"I was really proud of her," said Sampras Webster on facing her former player. "She is doing such a great job at Rice and she has a great team. During the match I didn't really think about it, but before and after, it was cool to see her and see how well she's doing."