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UCLA women’s tennis faces tough opponents in Stanford, California

By Jason Wang

February 25, 2010 9:48 pm

With a great conference comes great competition.

This is the gift and the curse of the Pac-10, and this weekend’s test may unmask the identity of the No. 4 UCLA women’s tennis team.

The Bruins (9-1) will face one of their toughest challenges this season as Pac-10 nemeses Stanford and California roll into town today and Saturday.

No. 11 Stanford has left a path of destruction heading into Westwood, having won its last three matches in 7-0 shutouts. Despite playing against three Top-50 teams, the undefeated Cardinal (7-0) has scored 45 points while only surrendering three.

The Bruins and Cardinal have traded wins in each of the past two seasons. This year, the Cardinal is the only undefeated team remaining in the hectic Pac-10. UCLA coach Stella Sampras Webster noted the strength and youth of Stanford’s team, with five singles players ranked in the Top 100 and three freshmen on the team.

No. 3 Cal (7-1) has established similar dominance so far, with its only loss coming from No. 2 Northwestern during the semifinal round of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships.

The Bears and the Bruins clashed in the quarterfinals of the Indoors as Cal delivered UCLA’s only loss of the season, 4-3. But the Bruins took the close loss and turned it into a positive, gaining newfound confidence in preparation for this weekend’s matches.

“We felt good after Team Indoors knowing, “˜Gosh, we can compete with the best,'” Sampras Webster said.

Despite the loss to Cal, the Bruins left the tournament with a pair of wins against national powerhouses Miami and Florida.

Cal has the No. 2 singles player in the country in Jana Juricova, who dealt top UCLA singles player senior Yasmin Schnack her only loss this year.

The last time the Bay Area teams visited the Los Angeles Tennis Center, the Bruins were handed a pair of 6-1 losses. Sampras Webster has taken steps to prevent this from happening again.

“We definitely let our freshmen know what happened last year,” Sampras Webster said. “Last year, I think they out-competed us. This year, our team is just more ready.We’re feeling more confident that we are better than they are.”

These matches, though against Pac-10 opponents, will not be counted toward UCLA’s Pac-10 record. Though still early in the season, these matches have long-term implications.

“Wins over Cal and Stanford would help us because they are going to win a lot of matches,” Sampras Webster said. “(Wins) would keep our ranking up there, to hopefully have a good seed going into NCAAs.”

Sampras Webster said that these matches will help her solidify her lineup for the rest of the season after lots of early-season shifting. Sampras Webster is settled on Schnack, junior Noelle Hickey and junior Andrea Remynse as her top three singles players, but the bottom of the order is still in the works.

Whatever this weekend has in store, it will be important that the Bruins continue battling, especially with Pac-10 season right around the corner.

“We just have to keep moving,” Sampras Webster said. “We can’t be complacent.”

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Jason Wang
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