Tritons’ Magic Runs Out in Loss to Crimson Tide


Kurt Johnston

UC San Diego women’s tennis (2–2) fell to the University of Alabama (3–1) on Saturday, losing 6–1 in their fourth nonconference matchup of the season. The UCSD Tritons came into the contest having come back from 3–1 deficits in their last two outings but were unable to extend their streak to three against the impressive Crimson Tide. On a positive note for the Tritons, sophomore Katelyn Vu continued her run of triumphant performances, winning her third straight singles match from the #6 spot. Vu and senior Rachel Wagner also won their third straight doubles match of the season in a hard-fought set.

UCSD started off on a bad foot, losing the doubles point early. On the #2 court, freshman Grace Gamal and junior Ella Pachl had their serve broken early and were unable to recover, losing 6–0. A similar story was written on the #1 court as sophomores Kelly Leung and Naomi Nguyen rallied from 3–1 down to cut the deficit to 4–3. However, they were unable to control the momentum and eventually lost their set 6–3. 

Vu and Wagner earned a consolation victory for the Tritons on the #3 court, winning their set 6–4. The pair took advantage of Alabama’s mistakes with some excellent net play. After an ace down the middle for the Triton duo pushed the set to 5–4, Vu and Wagner broke their opponents’ serve for a solid doubles win. The Tritons rallied to deuce, and a finessed lob at the net forced an Alabama mistake on the deciding point. This would be a rare bright spot for the Tritons in this matchup, as the Crimson Tide took control in singles play.

Two quick Alabama wins in singles put the Tritons in an early 3–0 hole. Senior Sophie Pearson was unable to gain control of her match and lost 6–0, 6–1 on the #5 court. Pachl also lost her first set 6–0 from the #2 slot, and despite valiantly fighting back in the second, she fell just short at 6–4. This meant that the Tritons would have to win all four of the remaining singles matches to claim their third straight victory of the season.

UCSD’s hope for a miracle was sparked yet again by Vu, who took a break advantage in the first set en route to a 6–4 lead. Vu, last week’s UCSD Athlete of the Week, gained momentum again early in the second set, earning her the 6–4, 6–4 win and UCSD’s first point of the match. Despite Vu’s win being the only bright spot of the day, the Tritons will hope to capitalize on her good form throughout the season.

Unfortunately for UCSD, the remaining Tritons fell short in their singles matches. The deciding match took place on Court #1, where Leung came thrillingly close to a second Triton win. After being broken in her second service game in the first set, Leung almost returned the favor, earning a deuce point at 3–1. Yet a powerful cross-court forehand won Alabama the deciding point and eventually the set, 6–1. Leung battled hard in the second set, with each player holding serve at 4–3. Leung’s serve and forehand were particularly potent, contributing to her slim lead to that point. In the eighth game, Leung broke serve to give herself a 5–3 advantage, seemingly destined to take the match to a tiebreaker third set. 

However, her Crimson Tide opponent rallied back to win four games unanswered, taking the set 7–5 and clinching the match for Alabama.

The final two singles contests offered no consolation to the Tritons. On Court #4, Nguyen was beaten 6–2, 6–2 in a tough match, and Gamal competed in her matchup on Court #3, ultimately the tightest of the day. Her 7–5, 6–4 loss was a back-and-forth affair, with the Triton freshman falling just short toward the end of both sets. 

UCSD will look to return to winning ways when they take the trolley south to face San Diego State University on Feb. 4. The Tritons will be looking to make history against the SDSU Aztecs, having lost 10 straight matchups against their cross-city rivals. UCSD’s final nonconference tune-ups come the following week, as they face Pomona-Pitzer on the road and return home for a matchup against Sacramento State University.

Photo Courtesy of Sophie Nourbakhsh