USC and UCLA might have one of the nation’s most heated rivalries, but USC coach Richard Gallien isn’t buying into the hype.
“We want to tone down the USC-UCLA rivalry,” Gallien said. “Tennis isn’t a sport you play when you’re overly emotional. When emotions are too high that just makes it harder.”
Coming off of a physically and mentally taxing bout with San Diego on Friday, the No. 15 USC women’s tennis team (7-1) will look to avenge last year’s two losses to the Lady Bruins.
Led by No. 1 singles player, senior Maria Sanchez, this USC team is a much more mature bunch than the previous group that was defeated by UCLA.
Riding a 16-match winning streak, Sanchez has been a dominant force for the Women of Troy this spring, dispatching some of the nation’s top competition in the process, including four top-10 players.
Despite her recent success, Gallien knows Sanchez’s journey is far from over.
“Naturally, whoever she plays will be excited. Maria is a pretty grounded kid and isn’t caught up in it,” Gallien said. “It’s a neat deal and she has a lot more matches left. She knows the goal is to keep improving both [for] now and her professional career.”
Sanchez will likely face off against No. 73 McCall Jones in the top singles match later today.
A combined seven singles players are nationally ranked heading into today’s match, not to mention the five doubles teams who are also among the nation’s best.
An interesting match slated for tomorrow is the third-slotted singles match, since both teams have been tinkering to find a stable player to man the spot.
Although the Bruins have been known to move around their lineups depending on the matchups, Gallien’s squad has had very little movement among its top six spots.
UCLA most recently used its top-ranked player at the third position, No. 64 Andrea Remynse, but no matter who she plays, Christian will have her hands full keeping her hot streak going.
Another possible thriller rests in the No. 5 singles match, where sophomore Valeria Pulido will put her eight-match winning streak to the test against probable starter No. 119 Carling Seguso, who has an 11-match winning streak of her own in play.
Two storied programs, both of which are nationally ranked, are sure to produce fireworks. Add in the rivalry between USC and UCLA, and this match has significant implications.
As always, though, Gallien wants to put the match into perspective.
“They have an excellent, solid team from top to bottom. We have had some success there in the past despite last year’s hiccup,” he said. “[This year] we will be ready.”
The match is set to start at 1:30 p.m. in Westwood, Calif.