The regular season is over and both the men’s and women’s tennis teams are heading to Ojai, Calif. for the Pac-12 Tournament. The men enter as the No. 2 seed while the women will come in as the No. 4 seed.
After winning nine consecutive matches in the middle of the season, the women’s team has gone 4-4 over its last eight games and lost three of its last four matches. Still, with an overall record of 17-6 and a conference record of 7-3, the Trojans finished fourth in the Pac-12, a major improvement on their eighth-place finish the year before.
Most recently, the Trojans fell to UCLA. In what was a hard-fought match by both sides, USC and UCLA tied for singles wins, only for UCLA to sweep doubles play to clinch its eighth conference win of the season.
Currently ranked No. 15 in the nation, the women’s team still has a lot to look forward to as it heads into the Pac-12 Championships. USC has the No. 4 doubles team in the nation made up of junior Angela Kulikov and senior Rianna Valdes.
“This is something we’ve been talking about for awhile,” Kulikov said. “When the preseason rankings came out, they had us at 42 and we just kind of looked at each other and said, ‘This is unacceptable, we’re not gonna take this, we’re going to show them.’ It’s been a big goal for us. We’ve had to climb our way up the rankings, but we definitely see ourselves as top contenders.”
In addition to the duo, USC has the No. 52 singles player in the nation in freshman Salma Ewing.
The Pac-12 Championships will be no walk in the park. The three teams ahead of USC — Stanford, Washington and UCLA — have all defeated the Trojans this season. If the Trojans hope to make a deep run in the tournament, they will have to rely on the likes of Ewing and Kulikov to carry them.
The men finished the Pac-12 regular season with 4-2 wins over Arizona and Arizona State. They finished second to UCLA in the conference following a 4-3 loss to the Bruins on April 5.
USC finished the regular season with a 17-7 overall record and a 7-1 Pac-12 record, ending the season on a four-match win streak. They are ranked No. 10 in the country.
The Trojans appear set for a third consecutive Pac-12 Tournament final against UCLA, as the two teams were easily the best in the conference this season. After losing to the Bruins in the final last year, the Trojans will look for revenge at Libbey Park.
Since the Pac-12 introduced the year-end tournament in 2012, there have only been two winners. USC has won three times and UCLA has won four. The rivals look to continue their dominance over the tournament.
USC will take on Washington in the quarterfinals. The Trojans defeated the Huskies 4-0 on the road earlier this year and will look to continue their dominance this time around.
The men’s tennis team looks to avenge its championship match loss last season, while the women’s team seeks its first Pac-12 championship since 2015. The women take on Cal at 9 a.m. Thursday, and the men face Utah at 3 p.m.