May 10, 2009

*Courtesy of UCLA Athletics

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - In one of the most clutch performances in recent Bruin women's tennis history, freshman Nina Pantic won the final 10 games in her match against Arizona State's Laila Abdala at court No. 4, propelling No. 11 UCLA to a 4-3 victory over the Sun Devils in the second round of the NCAA Championships at the Los Angeles Tennis Center on Sunday. With the win, UCLA (19-6) advances to face No. 6 Miami (25-4) in next week's round of 16 in College Station, Texas.

"For a freshman to come through in a big situation like that was just amazing," said UCLA head coach Stella Sampras Webster. "I'm so proud at how she handled the pressure. This is the best that I've seen her play so far at UCLA and for her to do it today was just huge for us. It just goes to show that anything can happen at the NCAA Tournament. The team with the biggest heart is going to win. I look forward to playing Miami this friday. We are excited to move forward."

With the dual match tied at 3-3, Pantic turned in a remarkable comeback at court No. 4, as the Bruin freshman rallied from a first-set loss and a late break in the second set to come back and win 4-6, 7-5, 6-0. Abdala actually served for the match up 5-3 but failed to win another game, as Pantic took 10-straight games to close out the match. She shook hands with Abadala before being congratulated by teammates.

"I looked up at the scoreboard and I knew that I was going to have to win in order for us to make it to Texas," said Pantic. I look at (the scoreboard) a lot. I admit it. I feel like the more pressure that is on me and the more people that come watch my match the better I play. Even though I was up 5-0, I wanted to win that last game. I didn't want to give her anything."

UCLA and Arizona State have played three times this year and all three contests were won by the Bruins 4-3. In addition to Pantic, one of the biggest wins on the day was turned in by sophomore Andrea Remynse at court No. 2, as she was beaten by Nadia Abdala in both prior contests. Remynse, who accounted for the Bruins' third point, kept UCLA in it with a 6-3, 6-3 win over her Sun Devil nemesis.

UCLA has now reached the round of 16 in each of the last 10 seasons. The Bruins and Hurricanes are scheduled to face off next Friday at 9:00 a.m. (CST).