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James Hill | | May 13, 2015

California dreaming

  UCLA won its second championship last year, defeating North Carolina 4-3.

WACO, Texas -- UCLA begins defense of its NCAA Division I Women’s Tennis Championship Friday in the round of 16 at Baylor University’s Hurd Tennis Center.

UCLA (20-4), the tournament’s No. 7 seed, faces No. 10 Texas A&M (17-5) at 10 a.m. The Bruins, led by 19th-year head coach Stella Sampras Webster, won their second NCAA title with a 4-3 win against North Carolina last year at Athens, Ga.

One of the top seeds this year include Southern California (23-2), who was edged 4-3 by host Georgia in the 2014 round of 16. The Trojans takes on 16th-seeded Texas Tech Friday at 8 p.m. The Women of Troy have won two NCAA titles, the last of which came in 1985. Led by 20th-year head coach Rich Gallien, USC has recorded wins against third-seeded California, No. 4 Vanderbilt and 14th-seeded Stanford this year.

“Overall, this is a very tough, deep draw with many excellent teams,” Gallien said. “I believe for us to win, it will require us to play very well, stay healthy and a little luck never hurts, either. I believe the other factor is for us to be very flexible. It may be windy, rainy, and delayed, so handling adversity will be certainly necessary.”

North Carolina (29-1) is the tournament’s second seed, and enters with the best record in the field. The Tar Heels only loss this season was 4-1 decision to ninth-seeded Virginia. UNC, which beat Stanford 4-3 in last year’s semifinals, captured the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Women’s Indoor Championship last February in Charlottesville, Va. The Tar Heels defeated Georgia 4-1 for the Indoor title. North Carolina opens the NCAA event at 10 a.m. against No. 15 Miami (Fla.) (18-6).

The 1 p.m. matches pit California (22-3) against perennial rival Stanford (17-5), and sixth-seeded Georgia (22-6) with No. 11 Michigan (26-3). Vanderbilt (21-6) meets Clemson (17-9), and No. 5 Florida (23-3) will face 12th-seeded Oklahoma State (23-5) at 5 p.m. Virginia (23-5) takes on host No. 8 Baylor (27-6) at 8 p.m.

The team quarterfinals are slated for Sunday, the semifinals for Monday, and the championship match Tuesday.

Following the team tournament, the 64-draw singles tournament, and 32-team doubles championship will be held May 20-25. Danielle Collins of Virginia won last year’s singles crown, beating Lynn Chi of California. Collins is back to defend her title, and is seeded in the 9-16 category. Chi is a key member of the Bears roster, but was not selected for the singles championship event.

Robin Anderson of UCLA is the singles top seed, Carol Zhao of Stanford is second and Brooke Austin of Florida is seeded third. Maegan Manasse of Cal is the No. 4 seed, Georgia’s Lauren Herring is fifth and Julia Elbaba of Virginia is seventh. Rounding out the top eight seeds are Jamie Loeb of North Carolina and Vanderbilt’s Sydney Campbell.

Alabama’s Maya Jansen and Erin Routliffe won the doubles championship last year, and are the No. 1 seeds in this year’s tournament. The Crimson Tide duo beat Herring and Mayo Kowase of Georgia for the title at Athens. Herring is paired this year with Ellen Perez in the doubles championship.

Zhao and Taylor Davidson of Stanford are seeded second, Catherine Harrison and Kyle McPhillips of UCLA are third, and Clemson’s Beatrice Gumulya and Jessy Rompies are the No. 4 seeds.

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