In its season finale, the USC women’s tennis team travels up the freeway to Westwood to face off against No. 1 UCLA in a showdown of the Pac-12’s top teams.
A win for the No. 4 Women of Troy (19-3, 6-1) could mean a possible Pac-12 title. The top-ranked Bruins have beaten the Women of Troy twice this season, but defeating a team three times in one year is no easy feat.
UCLA (21-1, 8-1) almost reached this point in the season with an unblemished record, but California defeated the Bruins last Friday in Westwood before Cal fell to the Women of Troy the following day.
In what has been an amazing year in terms of depth in the Pac-12, both UCLA and USC have shown an ability to fight through the conference and remain a top team in the nation.
The Bruins first beat the Women of Troy in the semifinal match during the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Indoor Championship in North Carolina, a tournament that UCLA won. On March 1, USC fell to the Bruins at home in a 4-3 heartbreaker that had the look of a postseason match.
In fact, the Women of Troy have not beaten UCLA in the past two seasons with their last victory being at home in 2009.
USC faces a tough task trying to take down the Bruins on Friday, especially when you consider that all six of the Bruins’ players are ranked nationally.
Heading UCLA’s singles is freshman Robin Anderson, who ranks third in the nation and poses a very serious threat to fellow freshman Zoë Scandalis on court 1.
Though there’s a precipitous drop-off for UCLA after first singles with No. 96 McCall Jones, the second-highest-ranked player on the squad, by no means does that abstain the Women of Troy from a gritty, tough Bruins team.
Jones usually moves around the rotation and can be seen playing anywhere form court 2 to court 4 on Friday. Following Jones is Skylar Morton, Pamela Montez, Chanelle Van Nguyen and Kaitlyn Ray, all of whom rank from No. 107 to No. 118.
Junior Danielle Lao will have to be at her finest for the Women of Troy since a singles point from her goes a long way to building momentum within the match.
The freshmen — Scandalis, Sabrina Santamaria and Gabriella DeSimone — need to play at their usual high levels and show the maturity they have shown all season long. Though this is just one match, a win for Scandalis would be a nice boost of confidence for a freshman who has taken a beating on court 1 all year.
Battling against teams’ top players day in and day out has an adverse effect, both mentally and physically, and a win on court 1 would be monumental not just for this match but in the grand scheme of things.
For the Women of Troy, Friday is a battle for revenge, a grudge match of sorts, as this traditional rivalry among two of the nation’s powerhouses always comes with great pressure and excitement. USC has a possible Pac-12 riding on this game, but moreso a victory will be a great confidence booster with the NCAA tournament in sight.