Pac-12 Women’s Tournament Takes a New Twist

Once again, the 117th Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament serves up the NCAA’s best in women’s tennis in hosting the Pac-12 Conference to be played next week, but with a new twist. The Pac-12 women now follow suit with their male counterparts and will compete for a conference crown as teams instead of individuals.

UCLA freshman Ena Shibahara

The Pac-12 Women’s Dual Team Championships will be contested in single-elimination bracket fashion and will begin play with three dual team matches on Wednesday and conclude with Saturday’s Pac-12 women’s title match at 3 p.m. at Libbey Park in downtown Ojai. The Pac-12 Women’s Dual Team Championships are co-hosted by the Ojai Valley Athletic Club and the neighboring Weil Academy from Wednesday-Friday, with quarterfinal play on Thursday and the semifinals on Friday.

“Having both played and coached with the individual format, I’m able to really appreciate the tradition it had at The Ojai,” UCLA women’s head coach Stella Sampras-Webster said. “At the same time I know that we were the only conference not having a team tournament so it was inevitable. I will definitely miss the traditional tournament but I can also appreciate the direction we are going and hope that our tournament champion will have an even competitive edge with the other conference champions in the rankings and NCAA seeding.”

Longtime Arizona State University women’s coach Sheila McInerney agreed. “I think the new team format will be very exciting for the players and the fans,” said McInerey. “I have competed and now coached at the Ojai for almost four decades and the tradition of the tournament is second to none.  A team format brings a new dynamic to a great tournament and I am excited to see how it plays out.”

The Pac-12 Women’s Dual Team Championships at The Ojai showcases many of the best collegiate players ahead of May’s NCAA national championships. Reigning NCAA champion Stanford, Cal, UCLA, USC and Arizona State won at least a round at the 2016 NCAA Division I Tennis Championships and will compete for the Pac-12’s first women’s dual team crown at The Ojai.

Stanford beat Oklahoma State, 4-3, in the 2016 NCAA final as the No. 15 seed. Key returners from the Cardinal’s championship team include seniors Taylor Davidson (2015 Pac-12 Championship Doubles winner at The Ojai) and Caroline Doyle and sophomores Melissa Lord and Caroline Lampl. Last year at The Ojai, Lord reached the Pac-12 Women’s Championship doubles final and Lampl advanced to the Pac-12 Women’s Invitational singles final.

Cal also reached last year’s NCAA Final Four after completing the 2016 regular season as the Pac-12 champion and the country’s No. 1-ranked team. The Bears are anchored by 2016 NCAA Division I Women’s Doubles finalists Maegan Manasse (Redondo Beach, Calif.) and Denise Starr.

UCLA’s reshuffled, reloaded roster features freshmen Ena Shibahara (Palos Verdes, Calif.) and Jada Hart (Colton, Calif.). Shibahara won The Ojai’s last two Women’s Open division singles crowns and paired with Hart to win The Ojai’s 2015 Open doubles title and place as doubles runner-up in 2016.

USC’s well-rounded team is spearheaded by the doubles duo of senior Zoe Katz (Los Angeles), the 2015 Pac-12 Women’s Invitational Doubles champ at The Ojai, and junior Gabby Smith.

Arizona women’s coach Vicky Maes also played in the Pac-12 Tournament, falling to Stanford’s Julie Scott in the final 20 years ago in 1997.

“I am excited about this new format,” Maes said. “I have been a proponent for years because I love the team aspect of college tennis. While some individuals will have fewer opportunities to play multiple matches, I think it is appropriate that a team conference championship marks the end of the team conference competition season.”

Past Pac-12 Women’s Individual Singles Champions at The Ojai

1987-Jane Thomas (UCLA)

1988-Lisa Green (Stanford)

1989-Sandra Birch (Stanford)

1990-Debbie Graham (Stanford)

1991-Sandra Birch (Stanford)

1992-Alix Creek (Univ. of Arizona)

1993-Alix Creek (Univ. of Arizona)

1994-Sandra De Silva (Stanford)

1995-Keri Phebus (UCLA)

1996-Julie Scott (Stanford)

1997-Julie Scott (Stanford)

1998-Annica Cooper (UCLA)

1999-Marissa Irvin (Stanford)

2000-Sara Walker (UCLA)

2001-Adria Engel (Arizona State)

2002-Gabriela Lastra (Stanford)

2003-Daria Panova (Oregon)

2004-Raquel Kops-Jones (Cal)

2005-Nicole Leimbach (USC)

2006-Suzi Fodor (Cal)

2007-Lindsey Nelson (USC)

2008-Riza Zalameda (UCLA)

2009-Amanda Fink (USC)

2010-Yasmin Schnack (UCLA)

2011-Kristie Ahn (Stanford)

2012-Nicole Gibbs (Stanford)

2013-Kyle McPhillips (UCLA)

2014-Jennifer Brady (UCLA)

2015-Catherine Harrison (UCLA)

2016- Meagan Manasse (Cal)

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