UCLA captures NCAA title after down-to-the-wire battle with UNC

Make room for another national title trophy in UCLA’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

The Bruins’ women’s tennis team added to the one it brought home in 2008 to place in its Hall of Champions where the Pac-12 school displays hardware from its more than 100 NCAA titles.

UCLA won this one in nail-biting fashion Tuesday, capturing a 4-3 victory over North Carolina at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.

Sophomore Kyle McPhillips from Willoughby, Ohio, clinched the title on her fourth championship point to take a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 decision over junior Caroline Price, daughter of former NBA and Georgia Tech star Mark Price.

McPhillips came back from down 0-40 and finally won on the deciding game’s 22nd point on court three.

Price went to her knee when her forehand volley went long and teammates surrounded McPhillips and fell on her in celebration.

“I got a little dizzy,” McPhillips said. “It was exciting but I was just dizzy from screaming so much and cheering. The moment was overwhelming.”

Price wasn’t available in the postmatch news conference.

“She’s disappointed,” coach Brian Kilbas said. “She feels like she let the team down when she didn’t. … She just happened to be the last match out there.”

Fifth-seed UCLA (27-2) became the sixth team to win multiple NCAA women’s tennis titles joining Stanford, Florida, Georgia, Southern California and Texas.

The Bruins had been a runner-up six times, including three times in Athens.

“We’ve been in a few finals here, so it was nice to finally win one,” UCLA coach Stella Sampras Webster said.

The Bruins’ second national title run was sort of like the first, their coach said.

“It was a very similar kind of year,” said Sampras Webster, the older sister of 14-time grand slam winner Pete Sampras. “I really felt like we were one of the best teams in the country and when we won it in ’08,I felt the same way. It was almost like coming into this year that I felt like it was ours to lose almost. We lost two matches all year. I just really believed in this team. …It’s not always the best team that wins. We’re fortunate that we could fight and battle and pull out those four points.”

Seventh-seed North Carolina (29-6) was playing in its first national title match.

“Most teams didn’t think we could get this far,” senior Tessa Lyons said. “It’s been a heck of a ride.”

“It’s always tough to end your season with a loss at any point in time,” Kilbas said. “We’ve never been to the finals before so I don’t really know how I’m supposed to feel. I have mixed emotions. I’m really, really proud of our team. I thought we fought extremely hard.”

UCLA’s doubles ended the season by doing what it’s done all season — winning the point.

It started when Catherine Harrison and McPhillips quickly dispatched Whitney Kay and Price 8-2 but the matches on courts one and three were highly contested.

North Carolina led 7-6 on court three when Robin Anderson and Jennifer Brady won a tiebreaker over Loeb and Hayley Carter 8-7 (3).

The teams split the first sets on the six singles courts.

In what could be a preview of next week’s women’s singles finals, second-ranked Anderson took it to top-ranked Jamie Loeb 6-2, 6-2 to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead.

Anderson, a junior from Matawan, N.J., had lost to Loeb in straight sets in their two other meetings last fall. Loeb, named Tuesday as the ITA national rookie of the year, had a 25-match winning streak snapped, last losing on Feb. 8 against Duke’s Beatrice Capra.

“I went into the match thinking I really had nothing to lose so I decided to go out there and play my game,” Anderson said. “I tried to stay really, really aggressive regardless of the outcome.”

North Carolina made it 2-2 when it got wins minutes apart.

First on court two, Carter, from Hilton Head, S.C., closed out a 6-2, 6-2 victory against Brady. Then on court five, Kate Vialle defeated Harrison 6-4, 6-4.

The three other singles matches went three sets.

UCLA made it 3-2 on court when Chanelle Van Nguyen defeated Ashley Dai, a late addition to the singles lineup, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 but the Tar Heels evened it up with a shot down the line for a 6-3, 4-6, 5-7 victory by Lyons against Kaitlyn Ray.

UCLA ensured that its fifth appearance in NCAA finals since 2004 would be a winning one when McPhillips closed out the third set.

“On paper we probably are the better team, but still they made it very difficult,” Sampras Webster said. “I was really happy that Kyle was able to stay focused and was kind of like in a zone.”

McPhillips called it “the single best accomplishment” she had in her life.

“I’ve played Wimbledon, Australian Open, French Open, U.S. Open (in junior play),” McPhillips said. “Nothing compares to this day right here.”

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