Behind the score
Singles victories by UCLA freshmen this weekend
Times coach Billy Martin has taken UCLA to the semifinals in 19 seasons
Along its path to potentially winning an NCAA championship, the UCLA men’s tennis team has overcome many obstacles that could have blocked the road.
This past weekend, the team climbed two more of the potential hurdles that could have ended its championship quest.
UCLA earned a 4-1 win over No. 13 Ole Miss on Friday and a 4-2 victory over No. 5 Ohio State on Sunday.
“This is our NCAA championship, what we have been striving to shoot for all year,” coach Billy Martin said. “We’re so excited; we’ve had two great wins.”
After falling behind 2-1 against the Buckeyes, the Bruins battled back thanks to wins from freshmen Dennis Novikov and Marcos Giron.
“I think that winning in straight sets definitely helped my teammates out, knowing that they just needed one … win and we can clinch the match,” Giron said. “I think it really helped give (sophomore) Adrien (Puget) a little bit of momentum to finishing off the match.”
It was Puget who would clinch the match by winning a tiebreaker in the second set to send UCLA to the Final Four of the tournament.
“It was huge. I’ve never been in that situation before,” Puget said. “It was a great moment for me and the team.”
After it had trouble adjusting to the environment and dropped the doubles point in its first match against Ole Miss, the team won the point against OSU.
“I felt we were a little looser. The first match is always a little tight,” Martin said. “I felt we were just a little more comfortable with the surroundings and everything, and loosened up a little bit and played a little better.”
Despite the big victories over the weekend, there’s no guarantee that UCLA will get its championship game ticket punched.
Possibly the team’s largest obstacle presents itself in the form of the No. 1 USC Trojans; the Bruins are 1-2 against their crosstown foe this season.
UCLA’s one win was USC’s only loss this year, and the Bruins know it will take a team effort to beat the Trojans again.
“We’ve put ourselves in position to play the Trojans, the (three-time) defending champions, who we have beat once already this year,” Martin said.
“Gosh darn it, I don’t have to do anything to motivate the guys. We’re sky high, we’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain in this upcoming match.”