On the heels of four straight shutout victories, the USC women’s tennis team (16-2, 5-0) looks to finish strong in its final homestand of the regular season against Arizona (12-6, 2-3) on Friday followed by Arizona State on Saturday (10-5, 2-3).
Ranked No. 4 in the nation despite seven straight victories, USC is looking to build off of their recent success after dominating the Pac-12 so far this season. Before the Women of Troy look ahead to an arduos road schedule to end the year, they first have to deal with two hungry conference rivals looking to play the underdog role to perfection at Marks Stadium this weekend.
Arizona will rely heavily on their top two players this Friday as senior Natasha Marks an sophomore Lacey Smyth rank 66th and 81st nationally in singles and also combine to be a fearsome top-50 doubles squad as well.
The Wildcats are looking for revenge on USC, who wiped the floor with Arizona in their last meeting during a 7-0 drubbing in 2010 and had to forfeit their Pac-12 match last season. Overall, USC leads the all-time series 45-15, but the Wildcats aren’t looking to even the series just yet as they set their sights on ending USC’s current winning streak.
On Saturday, the Women of Troy take on the 29th-ranked Sun Devils, who come in on a two-game slide after being beaten by California and Stanford in back-to-back shutouts. Arizona State boasts one of the top singles players in the nation in No. 9 Jacqueline Cako as she poses a serious threat on court one against freshman Zoe Scandalis after defeating her in ASU’s only win in a 6-1 loss to USC earlier this season.
On the doubles side, Cako and Joanna Smith form a competitive duo that is currently ranked No. 56 in the nation.
For the Women of Troy to be successful, they have to start strong out of the gates, which has been an important part of their recent seven-game winning streak along with a fairly weak Pac-12 schedule. Earlier in the season, USC had a difficult time against quality teams because they would put themselves in a hole after losing the doubles point.
Now, though, the Women of Troy have been able to save energy normally wasted on coming back in matches and focus that on closing out victories.
Freshmen like Sabrina Santamaria, Gabriella DeSimone, and Scandais have shown maturity throughout the year and it’ll be interesting to note how they — and the rest of the Women of Troy — handle the wear and tear of a tough schedule both mentally and physically.