Sports rivalries are always better when the championship is on the line.

At 3 p.m. today, the No. 9 UCLA men’s tennis team hosts No. 7 USC at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. With the winner being crowned this year’s Pac-10 champion, one can assume that emotions will be running high, bragging rights will be up for grabs, and one more chapter will be completed in the ongoing feud that is the Bruins versus the Trojans.

“We can’t let ourselves get too emotional because there is no doubt in my mind we’re going to have a good crowd, and (USC) will have a good crowd as well,” coach Billy Martin said. “We can’t get carried away in the moment. I just want them to stay within themselves. It’s just a regular tennis match.”

Adding fuel to the fire, the Trojans will seek to avenge one of their four losses of the season.

UCLA defeated USC on the Trojans’ home court earlier this season, 4-3, in what could be considered an upset. At the time, the Trojans were ranked No. 8 in the country, and the Bruins were ranked No. 13. In addition, USC junior Robert Farah, who was the No. 1 tennis player in the nation, fell in straight sets to UCLA junior Haythem Abid.

While Martin expressed some concern about his squad’s ability to keep their wits, his players are extremely confident about the way they are playing heading into the season’s biggest match.

“It gives us some confidence knowing that we can beat them, especially the fact that we beat them at their place,” junior Matt Brooklyn said. “We’ve won nine in a row, which has given us some confidence too, getting some tough wins. We’re all excited for Friday.”

As is the key to many matches in NCAA tennis, which operates on a best-of-seven points system, the doubles point will be crucial in today’s match. In its first meeting, UCLA was able to win the doubles point, which essentially sealed the victory for the Bruins. UCLA split with the Trojans in singles competition, each team winning three matches.

“I don’t think it’s any secret, doubles is obviously very important,” Brooklyn said. “We have to come out hot the first point of doubles.”

What is sure to be in the Trojans’ minds when they visit the LATC today is shifting the tide of the Pac-10 conference as of the past five years. Since 2004, when UCLA and USC tied for the Pac-10 Championships, the Trojans have not claimed another Pac-10 title. The Bruins, on the other hand, have either won or tied for first place every year since then.

In addition, the Bruins own an 18-4 overall record against the Trojans since 2000, including a win over USC in last year’s NCAA quarterfinals, eliminating the Trojans from national title contention.

Although six-straight Pac-10 Championships would be substantially impressive for Martin, his staff and his players, Martin’s eyes are more focused on a chance to compete for the season’s largest prize in May.

“I think it would be nice to win the Pac-10, but our goal really is the NCAA Championships,” Martin said. “It’s certainly one of our goals to win the Pac-10, but win or lose on Friday, we’re still out to win an NCAA Championship. That’s our major goal.”

Above all, Martin is relying on his veteran team to handle the pressure of today’s match, which he is sure will come down to the wire.

“I think the fact that we have good experience in matches like this, and from a coaching standpoint, that always makes me feel a little bit more relaxed,” Martin said. “It’s going to be a close match. It’s about who can stay focused, give 100 percent and stay within themselves.”