USC, which holds claim to the last four NCAA titles, is the only team standing between UCLA men’s tennis and a Pac-12 title.
Coach Billy Martin is expecting a crowd upward of 1,000 fans when the No. 3 Bruins face off against the No. 4 Trojans today at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. According to some members of UCLA’s squad, today, which is the last match of the regular season for the Bruins, is their most anticipated match so far this season.
“We’re just going to have to hopefully win the doubles point again and then have three guys step up in singles,” Martin said. “I’m not expecting to go out there and blow them out of the water; it’s going to be a dog fight.”
The team’s captain, junior Adrien Puget, believes the match is a good opportunity for players who didn’t win in past matches against USC to prove what they’re made of, while maintaining dominance in doubles.
“We all have a chance to win in doubles since we won both times we played them,” Puget said. “In singles, from one to six, everyone has a chance to show that they can win.”
Although junior Clay Thompson is always amped up for a match against USC, he believes today’s match is even bigger because of its conference ramifications.
“Every match against USC is huge,” Thompson said. “The only reason why this one is bigger than others is because the winner takes the Pac-12 regular-season title.”
“Chances are right after we play them this week, we’re going to play them right again next week – hopefully in the finals of the Pac-12 tournament.”
Even though the team tries not to get too caught up in the rivalry of Los Angeles, Puget admits that he and his squad enjoy the matches every time.
“It’s always a good challenge and a good time to beat them because they have great players, and so to beat them we’re going to have to be really tough mentally and physically,” Puget said.
The level of competition has not been extremely high for the Bruins over the past few weeks according to Thompson, so he wants to make sure the team doesn’t lose its energy.
“It’s going to come down to our fight,” Thompson said. “Our attitude has been a little lackadaisical recently because we’ve played teams that aren’t as strong, so we have to show that we’re hungry to win and not that we’re just entitled to win.”
Since he’s been around for a while, Martin knows that his lineup is pretty even with the Trojans, meaning that the outcome will hinge on who plays their best tennis today.
“We’re two really close teams and I think it’s going to be decided by small things and a point here or there, so we just we just have to be really ready to compete and play hard.”