The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Bruins showed why they are at number five in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Oracle/Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) latest rankings. They lifted the Pink Flamingo Cup at the inaugural Pink Flamingo Invitational that began on Friday and wrapped up yesterday at the Baha Mar Racquet Club.
The Bruins were unstoppable on the final day, winning seven matches to bring their three-day total to 21 matches won. They opened the first day with an 8-1 win-loss record, setting the tone.
Also playing in the invitational were the University of Miami Hurricanes, the University of Texas Longhorns and the University of Florida Gators.
“It was unbelievable to be able to compete against this great level of players and teams. I am proud of the way my players competed, played and performed. It is a great kickoff to our season. It was exciting to get back out there and get our season going. It was a great kickstart,” said Bruins’ Head Coach Stella Sampras-Webster, sister of legendary American player and former World No. 1 Pete Sampras.
It was no surprise that the Bruins’ Jada Hart was the top performer over the weekend. The redshirt senior finished with a perfect 6-0 record in singles and doubles play.
“For me individually, it was a solid weekend to start the season. It wasn’t like dual matches right away but it was a kind of a feeling of a dual match. Having the team together for the first time for the season is really nice,” Hart said. “I performed pretty well knowing what was at stake but it was just like a carefree vacation for me. I think playing here in The Bahamas and not stressing is really nice, and allowing me to just be free and play freely.”
Hart and her teammate sophomore Elysia Bolton are ranked number two in the nation in women’s doubles. They put on a show on the final day against the Longhorns twins, Anna and Bianca Turati.
That match drew a lot of spectators as Hart and Bolton won 6-4 with some great attacking plays.
Finishing second was the number seven ranked Longhorns. They finished with 16 wins. Head Coach Howard Joffe said the tournament has given his team an opportunity to compete against powerhouses in women’s college tennis.
“All these teams are preparing for our dual matches next season and it has given us the opportunity to compete against some of the very best teams if you look at the names – UCLA, Texas, Miami and Florida. We had some very good competition and I am happy with that part,” Joffe said.
The Longhorns secured five wins on the final day inclusive of four singles victories against Florida and a doubles match win against UCLA.
The Hurricanes captured 10 wins, finishing third. Head coach for the Hurricanes, Paige Yaroshuk-Tews, said that her team played good tennis.
“It was an incredible event,” Yaroshuk-Tews said. “We had a wonderful time and played good tennis. It was the first tournament of the season so it was great.”
She added that her team has a lot of competitive tennis coming up.
The number three ranked player in the nation, senior Estella Perez-Somarriba, put on a show for the spectators. She went perfect over the weekend, picking up three wins.
The 21st ranked Gators had a tough time but managed to finish with seven wins. Head Coach Roland Thornqvist said that it was great to go up against Texas, UCLA and Miami.
“Competing against three perennial powerhouses, perhaps two of the favorites to win a national championship this year, has been great for our team,” Thornqvist said.
Thornqvist, who is in his 19th year at the helm, added: “We came here to collect data, if you will, on stuff we need to work toward the season opener later on. I think we found some real key things that we need to improve on. With my team, we need to compete a lot and learn how to play rather than hit.”
A bright spot for the Gators was their senior Tsveta Dimitrova who went 3-0 over the weekend.
The four coaches have six NCAA national titles between them.
Baha Mar President Graeme Davis said that this is the first of many Pink Flamingo tournaments.
“Baha Mar is honored to host this first of many Pink Flamingo Cups where we can bring in the top college athletes in tennis from around the country and bring them here to showcase The Bahamas, Baha Mar and bring some world-class tennis to the islands,” Davis said. “It is a great opportunity for our young kids here in The Bahamas as well as New Providence to be exposed to such world-class athletes that we had here this weekend. It is an honor and a privilege for us. We look forward to hosting many more tournaments to come.”
The coaches and players all said they enjoyed their stay in The Bahamas, and used the time to do some team bonding as they get ready to open their dual matches as early as next weekend.