Tuesday, February 18

Weekend in Preview: UCLA to face off against rival USC in three sports

(Pinkie Su/Daily Bruin)

Women’s water polo
Cassidy Hunt, Daily Bruin contributor

UCLA women’s water polo failed to beat USC in its previous meeting this season, but will have a second chance this weekend when the two face off once again.

On Saturday, the No. 4 Bruins (21-4, 2-2 MPSF) will compete against the No. 1 Trojans (20-1, 3-0) at USC’s Uytengsu Aquatics Center in their final regular season game of the year.

“We’ve come a long way since the last game and (USC) has come a long way as a team too,” said coach Adam Wright. “We know that they are a really good team, but I believe that if we come out with the right intensity and focus then we will play a good game with them.”

(Daniel Leibowitz/Daily Bruin staff)

UCLA’s most recent game was two weeks ago when it lost to No. 2 Stanford (15-2, 2-2) by a score of 8-5. The Bruins have had two competition-free weeks to prepare for the upcoming match.

“We had a bye-week last week so we’ve been able to take a lot of time to grind and build and work on everything that we’ve been struggling with this season,” said junior defender Rachel Whitelegge. “We saw some problems the first time we faced (USC) that we’ve been able to fix as a team.”

Freshman attacker Roxy Wheaton said the Bruins have been trying to predict what the Trojans have in store for them.

“We know they run very unique defenses compared to other teams, so we’ve been learning how to attack and break down their defense.” Wheaton said.

In the previous matchup, the Bruins were forced to play on the defensive for the majority of the game. Whitelegge said that she and the team have worked on the way they approach different areas of the game.

“I think that our defense will translate into our offense,” Whitelegge said. “We’ve made a lot of progress over the last four months. It’s been a lot of hard work for us.”

Women’s tennis
Jacqueline Dzwonczyk, Daily Bruin contributor

The wait is over.

Seven weeks have elapsed since the women’s tennis rivalry match was rained out. This Saturday, No. 14 UCLA (17-4, 8-1 Pac-12) will host USC (12-8, 5-4 Pac-12).

“I know that our team wants to beat them very badly, so there will be a lot of intensity and energy from us,” said coach Stella Sampras Webster. “We know how they’re going to play and we have game plans.”

Not only is the match against a rival, but it is also the Bruins’ last regular season match and will encompass their senior day celebration.

“I’m hoping for a great atmosphere for this rivalry,” Sampras Webster said. “We’ve been promoting it all week so that we can hopefully have a good home court advantage…it’s our last regular season match and it’s at home against (USC).”

The Bruins are 52-50 in all-time matches with the Women of Troy. In each of the past three seasons, the series between the two teams has been split.

This season, there is no series – it’s all or nothing.

Sam Connon, Daily Bruin reporter

The Bruins may have swept the Trojans last year, but this season’s lone matchup left a bad taste in the Bruins’ mouths.

No. 13 UCLA baseball (22-10, 11-4 Pac-12) will take on rival USC (18-15, 6-9) this weekend at Jackie Robinson Stadium with a chance to avenge its 3-2 loss to the Trojans at Dodger Stadium on March 11.

The Trojans are ninth in the Pac-12 standings, sporting the worst on-base percentage in the conference, but coach John Savage said he won’t underestimate the team that beat his Bruins just over a month ago.

“(USC) is a dangerous team and they have good players,” Savage said. “Hopefully we’ll get good crowds … and it should be a good weekend of baseball.”

Sophomore second baseman Chase Strumpf, who leads the Bruins with eight home runs, 35 RBIs and a 1.085 OPS, struggled against the Trojans in March. Strumpf went 0-for-4 and struck out looking to end the game with both the tying and go-ahead runs on base.

(Habeba Mostafa/Daily Bruin)

“I’m sure there’s going to be a little revenge in our back pocket,” Strumpf said. “We’ll be ready for USC on Friday night.”

Senior sinker-baller Jake Bird will make his first and final career start against USC on Friday. Savage said the righty needs to give the Bruins his normal production.

“That doesn’t really mean much to me,” Savage said. “Bird’s had a good year, he just needs to keep giving us those quality starts – and he’s done that.”

After Bird, freshman right-hander Zach Pettway is next up in the rotation. Pettway is 5-1 on the year with a 2.83 ERA. The freshman threw 6 1/3 innings in relief against the Trojans in March, allowing two earned runs and notching seven strikeouts.

The UCLA-USC rivalry may be important to fans and students, but sophomore right-hander Ryan Garcia said he wants to treat it like any other series.

“Obviously, there’s going to be a little nerves going into it,” Garcia said. “But it’s no different than playing Utah or Stanford.”

First pitch Friday is at 7 p.m., with 4 p.m. and 12 p.m. start times on Saturday and Sunday.

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Sports staff

Hunt is currently a Sports staff writer on the gymnastics beat. She was previously a reporter on the women's soccer, women's water polo and swim & dive beats.

Assistant Sports editor

Dzwonczyk is currently an assistant Sports editor for the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball, men's golf and women's golf beats. She was previously a reporter on the women's soccer, beach volleyball and women's tennis beats.

Sports editor

Connon is the Sports editor and a reporter on for the football and men's basketball beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor for the baseball, men's soccer, women's golf, men's golf and cross country beats and a reporter on the baseball and women's basketball beats. Connon also currently contributes movie reviews for Arts & Entertainment. Connon is a third-year Communication student from Winchester, Massachusetts.

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