One match remains in the regular season for UCLA women’s tennis.
And it’s against its rival.
On Saturday, No. 22 UCLA (13-6, 7-2 Pac-12) battles No. 32 USC (10-9, 5-4) and looks to clinch the No. 3 seed in the Pac-12 Championship with a win.
With such a strong rivalry, coach Stella Sampras Webster said she looks forward to the energy her team will bring.
“We’re just going to leave it all out there,” Sampras Webster said. “The spirit of the competition is always so high and it’s exciting to be a part of.”
UCLA dropped its April 15 match against Arizona State after a seven-match win streak.
For sophomore Alaina Miller, this weekend is all about restoring their focus.
“It was kind of a wake-up call,” Miller said. “We were on a good run and I think we all lost a bit of focus. But I think now, with such a big rival and a home match, it’ll be a good opportunity to regain our focus again.”
What the team can learn most from its loss, Sampras Webster said, is to be able to make adjustments and not go in with just one game plan.
When the Bruins defeated the Trojans 4-3 in February, they earned the doubles point and took home singles wins from freshman Ena Shibahara, redshirt freshman Jada Hart and sophomore Gabby Andrews.
The key to come out with another win, Shibahara said, is strong preparation and feeding off the energy of the home crowd.
“They have been changing their lineup, but I think we’ll be able to handle whoever we have to play,” Shibahara said. “We’ve been preparing for this moment, so I think it’ll be a great opportunity for us.”
Like UCLA, USC has shuffled their doubles lineup. Jessica Failla and Rianna Valdes are now the pair on court one for the Trojans. That spot was previously held by Zoë Katz and Madison Westby who are now paired with different partners on courts two and three.
Failla and Valdes hold a record of 11-6, while Katz and Gabby Smith are 15-6.
On court one for the Trojans in singles, No. 27 Smith is 19-7. Katz, who battled No. 3 Shibahara in their last meeting on court one, now plays on court three and has won four of her last five matches.
Unlike their last meeting, this match between the rivals counts towards their conference standings.
Coming out with a win in the final match of the regular season, Miller said, will boost confidence and momentum heading into the postseason.
“I think it’ll amp up our energy,” Miller said. “Having this under our belt and having the excitement that comes with it will help us finish out the season strong.”