USC seeks Pac-12 perfection against UCLA

In its final match of the season, the No. 2 USC women’s tennis team will battle crosstown rival No. 5 UCLA Thursday at Marks Stadium. USC is playing hot coming into the match, carrying a 10-match winning streak to boost themselves to an impressive 20-2, 9-0 on the season.

UCLA is just behind in the rankings with a record of 18-3, 8-1.

Not only are the Women of Troy playing for a perfect 10-0 Pac-12 season, but with a win they will also capture the conference championship. USC has won championships in 2009, 2012 and 2013.

“There’s more emphasis because of it being the final match of the season and UCLA,” said standout freshman Meredith Xepoleas.  Xepoleas is one of six USC players ranked nationally in singles.

Junior Giuliana Olmos is ranked highest at No. 13, which is only two spots lower than her career-best ranking.  Senior Sabrina Santamaria is just behind her climbing into the    No. 19 spot.

Fellow senior All-American Zoë Scandalis is now at No. 61.  USC’s trio of freshman round out the national ranks for the squad with Gabby Smith at No. 75, Madison Westby at No. 78 and Xepoleas at No. 79.

“We come to practice with a lot of energy and work on what we need to work on,” Santamaria said.  “We’re ready for UCLA.”

UCLA, however, has not been an easy matchup for the Women of Troy in recent history.

The last time the Women of Troy were able to beat the Bruins was April 18, 2013 at Marks Stadium with a final score of 6-1 to finish off an undefeated      Pac-12 campaign for USC.

The two teams met earlier this season in Westwood on March 4.  UCLA delivered an upset in this match defeating USC 4-3 in a five-hour duel.

When asked about how the previous loss plays into the team’s preparation for this match, Xepoleas said that USC knows who they’re up against.

“It’s going to be really tough,” she said. “Especially since they just got their No. 1 player back.”  Xepoelas is referring to Robin Williams, who is ranked No.1 in the country.  The Bruins have five other payers in the national rankings.

USC is 48-43 against UCLA all-time, but they will be focused and ready to compete going into Thursday’s match said coach Richard Gallien.

“It’s easy to get too wound up,” Gallien said.  “It puts a bigger premium on managing yourself.  If you let the emotions run the show, then it’s in the hands          of the gods.”

Santamaria reitterated the team’s eagerness to get back on the court against their crosstown rivals.

“I don’t see it as the final match because we’ll have NCAA’s,” said Santamaria.  “But it is UCLA and we’re always excited to play UCLA.”  USC is coming into the match with an impressive ten win streak that extends through all of Pac-12 play and dates back to their match against UCLA.

Not only is the team playing well as a whole, but the Women of Troy have also been dominating their competition individually.  Olmos has won a team-high 32 singles matches this season.  Smith is next with 25 wins on the season,

Xepoleas and Scandalis have each won 23 matches, and Westby rounds out the 20-win crew with 21.

Of her 23 singles victories, Xepoleas has won her past 11 in a row.  Smith is the other hot hand coming into Thursday’s match on an eight-match win streak herself.

On the doubles side, the duo of Smith and Westby has won their past eight matches.

The Women of Troy will be looking for a strong start in doubles, as their record is a perfect 16-0 when winning the doubles point.

The match will kick off with doubles at 11:30 a.m.  Singles will follow at 1 p.m. and the match will be broadcast live on the Pac-12 Network.