Saturday, May 18

Bruin duo Kimmi Hance, Elise Wagle win bronze in FISU World University Games

Junior Elise Wagle rises to hit a serve. (David Rimer/Daily Bruin senior staff)

There were accomplishments abound for Kimmi Hance and Elise Wagle last season: Pac-12 Doubles Team of the Year, ITA All-Americans and an end-of-season No. 12 ranking to boot.

Now, add a medal to the list.

UCLA women’s tennis juniors won bronze at the FISU World University Games in Chengdu, China, last week, joining forces with members of Southern Methodist men’s and women’s tennis teams to represent the United States. In addition to their triumph as a duo, Hance was active in the singles draw while Wagle tried her hand at mixed doubles.

“For both of these young ladies, the ceiling is quite high, their upside is tremendous,” said Rance Brown, UCLA associate head coach and USA head coach. “Them seeing the international competition was a tremendous thing. It gives them something to shoot for, it makes them take more ownership.”

The international competition – organized like a collegiate Summer Olympics held every two years – was the first since 2019 following the postponement of the 2021 games. And though the honor of representing the red, white and blue was familiar to Brown – USA’s coach for the 2015 and 2019 games – it was brand new for Hance and Wagle.

The Bruins’ No. 1 doubles pair in 2023 entered the event as the No. 8 seed and were first opposed by Australia’s Amy Stevens and Alexandra Weir. The first match was the finest for the Americans, as Hance and Wagle defeated the Australians 6-3, 6-1 in the round of 16 to open their run.

But a smooth ride would then hit choppier waters. With their first-seeded competition on the opposite side of the net, the Bruin pair needed a quarterfinal upset to stay in podium contention.

And that’s precisely what they delivered, upending No. 3 seed Punnin Kovapitukted and Lanlana Tararudee of Thailand to a 7-5, 6-2 tune.

(Shengfeng Chien/Daily Bruin staff)
Junior Kimmi Hance pumps her fist in celebration. (Shengfeng Chien/Daily Bruin staff)

“It really helped that Kimmi and I played together during season and knew each other so long beforehand,” Wagle said. “You could see that there were some teams that were kind of put together just because they’re from the same country.”

The chemistry that gave Hance and Wagle the upper hand in their first two matches wasn’t enough to secure a top-two finish, as the tandem fell to Taiwan’s En-shuo Liang and Fang-hsien Wu, the bracket’s No. 1 seed and eventual gold medalists.

When they took to the singles and mixed doubles draws, Hance and Wagle’s efforts were once again curtailed by podium finishers.

Wagle, teaming up with SMU men’s tennis’ Callaway Clark, was dealt a 6-3, 6-2 defeat by No. 1 seed Wu and Yu-hsiou Hsu of Taiwan, who went on to claim the gold. No. 14 seed Hance’s singles run came to a 6-2, 6-0 close at the hands of No. 3 seed Ya-yi Yang of Chinese Taipei, the eventual silver medal winner.

The WUG was an experience like never before for the two Bruins.

“Going into it, me and Elise really had no clue what we were getting ourselves into,” Hance said. “Rance told us what it was all about, but when we got there, it was more than we could have ever even expected.”

The international competition also served as a reconnection of old friends. Hance and Wagle were joined on the U.S. by Taylor Johnson, a 2023 All-AAC honoree for SMU women’s tennis who spent the first four years of her career in Westwood.

College tennis only overlapped for one year between Johnson, Wagle and Hance. The former rarely saw the court during her senior year because of injury, while the latter two became regular starters as freshmen.

Yet the three have remained close, and Hance’s connection with Johnson started well before taking the court for UCLA.

“I’m personally Taylor’s number one fan,” Hance said. “I’m really close with her, I’ve known her all throughout juniors. She’s always been someone that I’ve really looked up to, so when I found out she was going to do the FISU games, I was so excited.”

With summer match play at the USTA SoCal Pro Series and the WUG now behind them, the fall season awaits for Hance and Wagle.

Sports senior staff

Nelson is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats and a contributor on the men's tennis and women's tennis beats.

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