After a highly successful showing in NCAA Regional play at the LA Tennis Center over the weekend, the UCLA men’s and women’s tennis teams both advanced to the Round of 16 in the 2013 NCAA Championships.
The Bruins combined to sweep all four of their regional opponents, as the men downed UMKC and Drake, and the women bested Army and Oklahoma State. The collection of straight-set wins landed UCLA in the second weekend of the tourney, which will take place in Urbana, Ill. at the University of Illinois.
The No. 1 UCLA men (26-1) will face off with No. 16 Vanderbilt on Thursday at 5 PM PST as they look to add to their current 17-match winning streak. The Commodores (18-10) earned their shot at the Bruins by sweeping East Tennessee State and then outlasting national host Illinois, 4-1, in their regional. This marks Vandy’s third trip to the Sweet 16 all-time, and the program’s first since 2004.
From an experience standpoint, the Bruins have an indisputable edge over the ‘Dores, but it remains to be seen if that translates to the court. Led by junior sensation Clay Thompson, UCLA will attempt to evade Vanderbilt en route to a meeting with the winner of No. 8 Duke vs. No. 9 Kentucky.
Thompson has been a force this season, and his talents were on full display against Drake on Saturday. The righty from Venice Beach was far and way the strongest competitor in singles, easily knocking off his Bulldog counterpart (6-1, 6-0). The rest of the Drake team put up a respectable fight, but Thompson made sure the point from his match went to UCLA.
If the top-ranked team in the nation can continue to play up to its expectations, a Saturday “Elite Eight” matchup with the Blue Devils or Wildcats could be in order. The Bruins are four wins away from a national title, and they won’t be too keen on wasting their near-perfect season on an early exit from the NCAAs.
For the seventh-ranked women, the road to the championship is a bit murkier than the men’s. UCLA (18-5) will take on No. 10 Michigan on Friday at 5 PM PST and a potential pairing with No. 2 North Carolina in the next round on the line. The Wolverines (23-5) reached the Round of 16 by sweeping IPFW and No. 24 Notre Dame in regional play, setting up a top-ten showdown with the Bruins.
In order for the UCLA women to survive and advance, they’ll need to get past a seasoned UM team that’s making its fourth consecutive Sweet 16 appearance. And if the Bruins can pull that off, the Tar Heels (27-3) could be waiting for a rematch on Sunday. UNC topped UCLA, 4-3, back in February to hand the Bruins their only non-conference loss of the season. Needless to say, it’ll be an uphill climb to get to next week’s “Final Four,” but that’s how the competition should be for an NCAA title.
Stay tuned for more UCLA tennis news as the Bruins continue their pursuit for national title No. 109! Go Bruins!