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Weekend in Preview: Feb. 25

No. 17 UCLA men’s tennis will face its crosstown rival No. 9 USC on Sunday, the second matchup between the two schools this year. The Bruins fell to the Trojans 4-1 in the team’s second game of the season. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin)

By Joel Kepes, Lexi Grimes, Eden Yu, Valerie Li, and Sam Settleman

Feb. 25, 2021 5:19 p.m.

Men’s tennis
Joel Kepes, Daily Bruin contributor

Revenge is on the Bruins’ minds as they welcome their crosstown rivals to Westwood.

No. 17 UCLA men’s tennis (3-1) will play host to No. 9 USC (8-3) as the Trojans travel to the Los Angeles Tennis Center on Sunday for the first time since April 5, 2019. UCLA will then face UNLV (3-4) on Tuesday in the fourth match of its seven-game homestand.

UCLA fell short to USC in the championship match of the ITA Kickoff Weekend tournament back on Jan. 25 by a score of 4-1.

“Certainly, losing to them – and it’s still somewhat fresh, barely a month ago – will give them more motivation,” said coach Billy Martin. “We’ll certainly be fired up and excited to play a great team.”

Since that loss in the Bruins’ second game of the season, UCLA has picked up some momentum with back-to-back wins against Loyola Marymount and UC Santa Barbara.

“I think of these matches (against Loyola Marymount and UC Santa Barbara) as a great dress rehearsal leading up to big matches like Sunday’s match for us,” said Martin.

UCLA will also be healthier since the last time it took on its rivals. It has the team’s No. 2 singles player sophomore Drew Baird back in the lineup as well as the German-born junior Patrick Zahraj.

Following Sunday’s showdown against the Trojans, the Bruins will look to defend their unbeaten record against UNLV. UCLA is 17-0 against the Rebels, with its most recent win being a 5-2 victory on Feb. 10, 2018.

Women’s volleyball
Lexi Grimes, Daily Bruin contributor

The Bruins are returning from Tempe with two road wins and have a chance to sweep another school from the desert.

No. 15 UCLA women’s volleyball (7-3) will take on Arizona (4-6) after sweeping Arizona State (1-9) last weekend, its first sweep since the beginning of the season. Senior outside/opposite hitter Mac May said the Bruins were able to establish a steady game flow while playing in Tempe, something that will help in their upcoming matches.

“I think what worked for us really well against ASU was finding our rhythm,” May said. “We were really focusing on our side and trying our hardest to play at our best.”

UCLA has been adjusting to altered lineups since losing junior setter Devon Chang, and with a new rhythm established and more familiarity with new players, the Bruins have said they’ve been able to focus on improving other areas of their game.

Freshman outside/opposite hitter Iman Ndiaye said the main area of improvement for UCLA is its serving skills, which the team has been working on ahead of the matches this weekend.

“We missed a lot of serves last weekend,” Ndiaye said. “If we serve them really well this weekend, it will help us be able to block them better.”

The Bruins will see if their adjustments pay off against the Wildcats at home Friday at 11 a.m. before taking on Arizona again Sunday at noon.

Men’s volleyball
Eden Yu, Daily Bruin contributor

After a pair of victories, the Bruins will travel around Southern California for competition.

No. 7 UCLA (4-2) will face unranked Concordia University Irvine (0-3) in a set of three matches beginning Thursday at Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins will then head south to Irvine on Saturday and back home on Tuesday for their next two games against the Eagles.

Coach John Speraw said he is looking to work more on the team’s offense for future games after the matches against USC last weekend. The Bruins defeated the Trojans in four sets while holding them under a .200 hitting percentage in both matches.

“We spent the last week continuing to work on our offensive connection,” Speraw said. “It has been an area that needs some work, and we showed some improvement particularly in our hitting percentages in the first couple sets (of Saturday’s game).”

Sophomore outside hitter/opposite Cole Ketrzynski was also named Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Week for his performance against USC, recording a career-high 21 kills Saturday.

Last season’s only matchup against Concordia was UCLA’s first conference win of the season, defeating the Eagles in four sets. The Bruins have won every single one of their matchups against Concordia since the two teams began their history in 2016.

Speraw expressed a positive outlook on the team’s versatility this season despite the fluctuation of its players.

“We have four middles that we (have) played so far this season, and each one brings a different skill set,” Speraw said. “We do have some nice depth, which is helpful in a season when you are likely going to have to continue to play different lineups like we have in the last six or seven matches.”

Women’s tennis
Valerie Li, Daily Bruin contributor

A pair of rivals will face off with just over a year in between matches.

Coming off a loss from last week against No. 12 California (6-1), No. 6 UCLA women’s tennis (5-2) will be playing No. 17 USC (5-2) on Friday on the road. Following last season’s win against the Trojans, this will be the first time that the two schools will match up this season, with the Bruins holding a 5-3 record between them in the past five years.

“Everyone is excited to play (USC),” said coach Stella Sampras Webster. “It’s always an exciting match, and it’s our rival, so I know everyone is going to be ready and prepared for it.”

UCLA has recently moved down three ranks in the national ITA rankings. Moreover, this past week, junior Elysia Bolton and graduate student Jada Hart – who are ranked the nation’s No. 1 doubles team – fell to the No. 40 doubles team of Valentina Ivanov and Haley Giavara from Cal.

Sampras Webster said mindset is on everyone’s mind as she focuses on pressing the team to play freely and aggressively.

“I’m hoping that our players can just play free,” Sampras Webster said. “We’re expecting it to be tough, but they’re going to go out and believe in themselves and play freely and aggressively like we know that they can play.”

Ultimately, the Bruins are not cutting any corners this time around.

“No shortcuts,” Sampras Webster said. “I believe in this team. I believe in our players, and I have a lot of faith in them.”

Women’s water polo
Sam Settleman, Daily Bruin contributor

The Bruins have never lost to the Anteaters.

No. 3 UCLA women’s water polo (1-0, 0-0 MPSF) will have the opportunity to continue its unbeaten streak against No. 4 UC Irvine (4-1, 0-0 Big West) at the Anteater Aquatics Complex on Friday. The Bruins have defeated the Anteaters in more than 20 straight contests since the classification of women’s water polo as an NCAA sport in 2001.

In its second game a season ago, UCLA suffered an upset loss at the hands of then-No. 11 UC Santa Barbara before rattling off wins in 18 of its next 19 games. This season, coach Adam Wright – inducted into both the UCLA Athletics and USA Water Polo halls of fame – said his team is using its early games to focus on self-improvement.

“The reality is, especially here in these early going games, it’s really about ourselves and playing against ourselves per se,” Wright said. “And hopefully we can be better each time we go out and play.”

As a result of a shortened 14-game regular-season slate, Friday’s matchup against the Anteaters will be the Bruins’ last non-conference game of the season.

With conference play on the horizon, Wright said his team’s defense will need to improve in order for the team to vie for a national championship.

“That’s always been a staple of UCLA – before I was here, when I was a player here and still is,” Wright said. “And that’s a transition for a lot of players that are just coming in. But if we want to be serious about having a chance to be the best team in the country, our defense has got to get a lot better.”

Wright, who coaches both the men’s and women’s water polo teams simultaneously, said managing two seasons at once has been exhausting. With UCLA men’s water polo headed to its conference tournament, Wright said he and his staff have been coaching seven days a week for the past two months.

“It’s a lot, to be honest,” Wright said. “And the reality is, it takes a toll physically, mentally on all the staff. But we wouldn’t want it any other way.”

The Bruins and Anteaters are set to square off at 3 p.m. on Friday.

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Joel Kepes | Sports contributor
Kepes is currently a Sports contributor on the men's tennis beat.
Kepes is currently a Sports contributor on the men's tennis beat.
Lexi Grimes | Sports contributor
Grimes is currently a Sports contributor on the women's volleyball beat. She was previously a contributor on the beach volleyball beat.
Grimes is currently a Sports contributor on the women's volleyball beat. She was previously a contributor on the beach volleyball beat.
Eden Yu | Sports contributor
Yu is currently a Sports contributor on the men's volleyball, track & field and cross country beats.
Yu is currently a Sports contributor on the men's volleyball, track & field and cross country beats.
Valerie Li | Sports contributor
Li is currently a Sports contributor on the women's tennis beat.
Li is currently a Sports contributor on the women's tennis beat.
Settleman is currently a Sports contributor on the gymnastics and women's water polo beats.
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