WACO, Texas -- The seventh-seeded UCLA Bruins will defend their NCAA Division I Women's Tennis Championship Tuesday against the No. 4 Vanderbilt Commodores. The matchup is slated to begin at 6 p.m. ET at Baylor University's Hurd Tennis Center.
UCLA (23-4) defeated No. 6 Georgia 4-1 in Monday night's semifinals, and Vanderbilt (24-6) shut out top-seeded Southern California 4-0. Both matches were halted by lightning, but resumed outdoors.
But head coach Geoff Macdonald, in his 21st season, said the times have changed for the Commodores.
"That last one was a long time ago," Macdonald said of the 2001 final. "It was a wonderful team. We were so thrilled, and it was new territory. With this team, we have played so many big matches against top-level competition, that this feels less like a magical mystery tour, and more like we kind of know where we are going. It's difficult, but we had a bit of an idea what we were doing this year."
Indeed, Vanderbilt opened the championship event last Friday with a 4-0 win against Clemson in the round of 16, followed by a 4-3 victory against fifth-seeded Florida in the quarterfinals. Red-shirt freshman Astra Sharma of Perth, Australia, clinched the victories vs. Florida and Georgia by winning No. 2 singles. Last year, Vanderbilt fell 4-0 to Florida in the round of 16 at Athens, Georgia.
As a contrast to Vanderbilt, the Bruins will compete in their ninth championship tilt (and fifth consecutive semifinals round), with the wins coming last year and in 2008. UCLA beat No. 10 Texas A&M 4-1 in this year's round of 16, and defeated No. 2 North Carolina by the same score in the quarters. The Bruins edged the Tar Heels 4-3 in the 2014 championship match, held in Athens, Georgia. UCLA is led by head coach Stella Sampras Webster, in her 19th season at the Westwood campus.
The clincher for the Bruins against the Bulldogs came at No. 6 singles as senior Kaitlin Ray won No. 6 singles with a 7-6 (3), 6-2 victory.
"It's a testament to this program," Ray said about the Bruins playing for the title. "I've been blessed with the class I came in with ,Chanelle Van Nguyen and Robin Anderson [ranked No. 1 in the nation]. We've done some pretty special things. Not many girls can get to at least the final four in all four years. It's just such a privilege to be part of a program where you wake up every morning with a chance to win a national title."