Waves Head to NCAA Tournament

Ashley Lahey 

The Pepperdine Waves women’s tennis team snagged another West Coast Conference regular-season championship late last month.

The squad, ranked fourth nationally, claimed its eighth consecutive WCC crown after downing conference opponent San Diego 7-0 on April 25. 

Waves standout Jessica Failla, a graduate student, said winning the conference was one of the group’s goals.

“It’s an expectation that we have,” she said. “It is not always easy dealing with that when you are the one expected to win, and the other teams are just going for it. I think we did a really good job taking care of business.” 

Now, Pepperdine, ranked in the nation’s top 10, is on the hunt for a NCAA title. The Waves will host Northern Arizona on Friday at Pepperdine in the first round of the 64-team NCAA Women’s Tennis Championships. Pepperdine, owners of a 20-3 overall record and 8-0 WCC record, have spent time before the opening-round match sharpening aspects of their already dominant tennis game. 

If the Waves down Northern Arizona, the team will face the winner of the UC Santa Barbara vs. Stanford matchup in the championships’ second round.  

Ashley Lahey, another Waves standout graduate student, said she is ready for the tournament. 

“We have been preparing for NCAAs all semester, focusing on improving our level each and every day,” said Lahey, the ITA Senior Player of the Year in 2020. “We have all been training hard and getting better. We had a really awesome season with a lot of good wins—only a few losses to really good teams.”

If the Waves win this weekend, they will advance to the tournament’s later rounds, which will be held May 16-28 at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla. 

Pepperdine dominated San Diego to win the WCC.

Lahey was named the WCC Player of the Week in the wake of her singles performance against San Diego. Waves sophomore Lisa Zaar and freshman Taisiya Pachkaleva received the same honor for their doubles play. 

Lahey and Failla, along with Pachkaleva, ended the regular season ranked among the top 115 singles players in the nation as of April 28. Failla, with a 14-3 record, is ranked 24th; Lahey is ranked 76th with a 10-4 record; and Pachkaleva is ranked 113th with a 22-1 record. 

Pepperdine ended the season with a five-game winning streak. The team’s last loss was on April 14 to fifth-ranked UCLA.

Failla said she and her teammates are blessed to have been able to have a tennis season amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I’m just so glad we have been able to play the entire season,” she said. “We are so thankful for that.” 

Failla said outside of winning the WCC title, some of Pepperdine’s other big accomplishments were beating USC, ranked 36th, three times and downing UCLA in mid-March. 

“UCLA is one of the best programs in the country,” said Failla, who won the deciding match. “Everyone on the team fought so hard.” 

Lahey, the NCAA Singles Championship runner-up in 2018, said Pepperdine can win the national tournament.

“More than anything, though, we just want to go out with no regrets,” she noted. “Win or lose, we hope to compete to the best of our ability until the very last point. Hopefully, that will get us a title, but if not, we can go home knowing we did our best!”