ATHENS, Ga. -- In 2012, on these very same Georgia courts, UCLA suffered a lopsided 4-0 loss to Florida in the national championship match. This year, in the national semifinals, the favor was returned, as the fifth-seeded Bruins dominated the eighth-seeded Gators 4-0 on Monday at Georgia's Dan Magill Tennis Complex, giving UCLA its fifth appearance in the NCAA final since 2004. UCLA's opponent at 1 p.m. ET Tuesday will be seventh-seeded North Carolina (30-5), which downed 11th-seeded Stanford 4-3 in Monday's other semifinal.With UCLA (26-2) leading the match 3-0, junior Kaitlin Ray picked up Monday's clinching victory at court No. 6, as her 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 win against Kourtney Keegan gave the Bruins the 4-0 victory. It was a career-defining moment for Ray, who despite being a junior has not played in an NCAA tournament due to injury until this year.
The Bruins started Monday's match like they have done in every contest this season, claiming the doubles point for a 1-0 lead. UCLA took the point with a pair of tiebreakers at court Nos. 1 and 2. Both courts went to tiebreakers at the same time and after Catherine Harrison and Kyle McPhillips took care of business at court No. 2, Robin Anderson and Jennifer Brady followed suit, downing Alexandra Cercone and Kourtney Keegan 8-7(5) to lock up the 28th doubles point of the year for the Bruins.
“Winning doubles was a big point in the whole match because we have been used to winning the doubles point and it really came down to a point here or there," UCLA head coach Stella Sampras Webster said. "We were fortunate to win the two tiebreakers and the two doubles. We came out just a little tight in the doubles and once we won that point, our team just came out in singles really aggressive and played some really good tennis. We knew Florida is a great team, but we prepared our team like any other match. I’m just really proud of the way they competed and stayed in the moment.”
UCLA came out on fire in singles play, taking five first sets. Playing at court No. 2, Brady played inspired tennis against Olivia Janowicz, winning 6-1, 6-1 to give UCLA a 2-0 lead. Right next door at court No. 1, Anderson was almost as impressive against Brianna Morgan, winning 6-1, 6-3. Anderson is currently listed at No. 2 in the ITA singles rankings.
UCLA's fourth point would be a little harder to come by, as all four matches were fairly close. Although the Bruins had won first sets on three of the four courts, Florida began mounting second-set comebacks to extend the match. Harrison worked her way to a match point at court No. 5, however her opponent, Belinda Woolcock, saved it and eventually took the second set in a tiebreaker. Playing at court No. 4, Chanelle Van Nguyen was also twice within a game of clinching against Cercone before that set would also go to a tiebreaker.
It soon became apparent that Ray, who had worked her way to a 5-2 lead against Keegan at court No. 6, would be the most likely to clinch. Ray converted her third match point on a missed volley by Keegan, as Bruin players then stormed the court in jubilation.