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Late Bloomer
Richard Deitsch
May 29, 2000
Stella Sampras, Pete's big sister, makes her name coaching UCLA's women
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May 29, 2000

Late Bloomer

Stella Sampras, Pete's big sister, makes her name coaching UCLA's women

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The next day Stella flew to El Paso to comfort Sara at her family's home. She stayed with the Walkers for three days before returning to coach the Bruins against Arizona and Arizona State. "I thought she would be here a day and then ask Sara if she was coming back to play," says Ross, Sara's father. "When I asked Stella if she had found out what Sara was going to do, she told me, 'I'm not here to find out what her plans are. I'm here only to be here if she needs me.' I thought that was remarkable. It spoke volumes about the kind of person she is."

The following Sunday, Sampras, her two assistants, a trainer and 11 players boarded a Southwest Airlines flight to El Paso to stand with their teammate at Terry's funeral—a trip financed in part by Pete with the approval of the NCAA and UCLA. "She doesn't usually show her emotions, but she did in El Paso," says freshman Abigal Spears, who recalls Sampras weeping at El Paso's Temple Mount Sinai. "That made us respect her even more."

On April 30, five weeks after returning to school, Walker won the Pac-10 title without losing a set. She enters this weekend's play ranked No. 2 in the nation in singles. "What my daughter has achieved since the accident speaks for itself," says Ross. "She won the Pac-10 championship only weeks after the most devastating loss you can imagine. It was so touching to us to have Stella and the team fly down for the funeral, and Stella was here even before that. When Sara went back to UCLA, it was very emotional for me and her. But I knew that she was going back to family."

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