Wednesday, March 29

After Bay Area victories, tennis aims to consolidate

Now that the No. 9 Bruins men’s tennis team has established a lofty position for itself, the squad is taking up the task of trying not to lose balance from its perch.

With an undefeated run through spring break, with the crowning moment being the team’s 4-3 victory over powerhouse Stanford, UCLA made a significant move toward the conference title. The Bruins also jumped two spots in the national rankings, and their confidence jumped, too.

“I think our spirits are high,” coach Billy Martin said. “And they should be; that was two good wins for us.”

Starting this weekend, the team embarks on a two-week, four-game stretch in which the Bruins will be considered a favorite in each contest. The stretch leads up to a year-end showdown with rival USC, which is currently ranked sixth nationally. If both teams keep playing well, that match could decide the Pac-10 champion.

But while the Trojans wait on the horizon, this weekend brings two other warriors to the front. Today, UCLA (12-4, 2-0 Pac-10) hosts unranked Oregon (9-10, 0-1), a school that has never beaten UCLA in 15 meetings.

Then, No. 21 Washington (12-5, 1-0) makes a visit to the Los Angeles Tennis Center in an attempt to snap what could be a tie for the Bruin’s longest winning streak of the season, at six dual matches. Last week, the Huskies defeated No. 20 Arizona, 6-1, and will bring two ranked singles players and a ranked doubles pair to the table on Saturday.

Since setting a goal at the beginning of the season to go undefeated at home, UCLA has just one loss in that venue ““ another 4-3 match against the Cardinal back in February ““ and the team is serious about protecting its nest.

“We always try to defend our home court,” Martin said. “You know we lost that squeaker to Stanford, but still I feel a lot of pride in defending our turf. We’re not going to overlook these teams, but I think it’s going to be a lot tougher for them to come down and beat us in our home court.”

SRUGO LOOKS TO RETURN: Senior Harel Srugo has been limited to doubles for the last month and a half because of an injury in his left hand that restricts his two-handed backhand. However, Martin said he will be placed back in the singles lineup for at least one of the two weekend matches.

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