Two rival teams that are consistently at the top of the collegiate tennis rankings will come face-to-face again this afternoon.
Although the rivalry has been lopsided in favor of USC in the past few years, the UCLA men’s tennis team thinks preparation and experience will help it turn the tides today.
No. 3 UCLA will head to the David X. Marks Tennis Stadium to face No. 2 USC for the second time this season. Although today’s match will not be considered for Pac-12 standings, it does count toward the Bruin’s non-conference record and a victory against a top-five team could help them with seeding in the NCAA tournament.
The Bruins used their experience in their first match against the Trojans, which resulted in a 4-3 loss during the ITA National Indoors semifinals, to prepare for the pending rematch. Junior captain Adrien Puget has been leading the way in practice.
“For doubles and singles, we examined what did and didn’t work, which will hopefully give us a win (today),” Puget said.
In the past, coach Billy Martin has discussed the strength of the bottom of the Bruins’ lineup, but he said top-ranked teams like USC usually neutralize matches on courts four, five and six.
“They’re just good players down the line,” Martin said. “So many of these matches are decided at the bottom parts of the lineup, and USC has just as good of a four, five and six as we do.”
In a rematch just a week later, Martin understands that both teams will try and shake things up so he isn’t expecting to see the same Trojans lineup as last time.
“There can always be lineup changes,” Martin said. “We can’t just go into it expecting the same matchups for every player.”
Sophomore Marcos Giron said he realized in UCLA’s first match against USC that he didn’t capitalize on opportunities given to him by USC junior Emilio Gomez, and he says he won’t make the same mistake in today’s match.
“If I’m able to stay on top of the point early on and come to the net a little more I should do well,” Giron said.
UCLA has lost six of its last eight matchups against USC, but last weekend’s near victory made the Bruins believe that they are certainly capable of getting a win this time around.
Although Martin is well aware of UCLA’s past struggles against USC, he believes the Bruins are capable of evening the playing field on USC’s home court.
“I know they were happy to beat us, but I can’t imagine them coming into the match overconfident,” Martin said.