The Pac-12 is loaded.
It boasts four of the country’s top 10 teams that are all competing for a national title — No. 2 UCLA, No. 4 USC, No. 5 Stanford and No. 7 California.
Even though they are not in the national spotlight, UA and Washington State are two of the 50 best teams in the country and are also in position to have strong seasons.
Whoever wants the Pac-12 title will certainly have to earn it.
No. 1 — UCLA
UCLA plans to avenge last year’s championship loss to Florida, but that may be easier said than done.
Sophomore Robin Anderson made it to the round of 16 NCAA singles tournament last year and is now the only Bruins player ranked in the Top 25 for singles. Sophomore Kaitlin Ray is the second highest-ranked singles player for the Bruins at No. 38.
No. 2 — USC
USC fell in last year’s national semifinals to UCLA. This year could be their chance to surpass their in-town rival.
USC has three players ranked in the preseason Top 25.
Senior Danielle Lao is ranked No. 14, sophomore Sabrina Santamaria is No. 17 and sophomore Zoë Scandalis No. 19.
Santamaria and junior Kaitlyn Christian are the No. 1 doubles pairing in the country. The Trojans boast a stacked roster and could overtake UCLA for the top spot and compete for the national title.
No. 3 — Stanford
Stanford is arguably the best team on paper in the conference.
The Cardinal has both the defending national singles champion junior Nicole Gibbs and the No. 2 overall singles player freshman Krista Hardebeck.
Add senior Stacey Tan, who also qualified for the NCAA singles tournament last year, to that mix, and the Cardinal have as formidable of a lineup to compete with their competition in Southern California.
No. 4 — Cal
Cal, along with USC, have three returning NCAA singles tournament qualifiers which the most in the conference.
Two are ranked in the preseason top-10 in singles. Sophomore Zsofi Susanyi holds the No. 7 singles ranking and junior Anette Schutting has the No. 9 ranking. Together, they will look to lead Cal past the quarterfinals they reached last year before being eliminated by UCLA.
No. 5 — UA
UA only returns one NCAA singles tournament qualifier, junior Lacey Smyth.
But the team is experienced with four juniors, one sophomore and two freshmen on the roster. The Wildcats will rely on their upperclassmen to lead them beyond last year’s second round ouster from the NCAA tournament.
No. 6 — Washington State
With one of the most senior heavy rosters in the Pac-12, Washington State will also count on their experience this year.
Senior Liudmila Vasilieva returns as the only Washintgon State player to qualify for the NCAA singles tournament last year. She is the Cougars’ best player and had an 11-3 record in singles in the preseason.
No. 7 — ASU
ASU might have the most upside of any team in the Pac-12.
Freshman Desirae Krawczyk leads the core of six underclassmen and should have a big year after a strong preseason.
All-American senior Jacqueline Cako returns for the Sun Devils as their top player.
If the underclassmen can produce, ASU could make a deeper run in the NCAA tournament than last year’s first round loss.
No. 8 — Washington
Contrary to its instate rivals, Washington doesn’t have a single senior on its roster. In fact, they have only one upperclassman.
Junior Andjela Nemcevic leads a team of four sophomores and four true freshmen.
On top of that, the Huskies’ schedule is treacherous. Washington’s first two matches are at No.10 Alabama and No. 18 Ole Miss. Then they play their intense Pac-12 schedule including Stanford and Cal away from home.
No. 9 — Oregon
Oregon had a rough year in 2012.
The Ducks only won two matches in the conference. Additionally, only three of their seven returning players had winning records last season.
It may be another rough year for women’s tennis in Eugene, Ore.
No. 10 — Colorado
After dropping 12 of its last 13 last year, the Colorado can’t do much worse.
The Buffaloes did not win a single conference match and were shut out in seven of those. The only direction for Colorado to go in its second season in the conference is up.
No. 11 — Utah
Utah finished its offseason a bit early on a high note. Junior Sarah Pham won the singles championship in the red bracket of the San Diego State Invitational.
Pham and doubles partner junior Callie Craig also captured the doubles title of the same tournament in the red bracket.
The question is will time away from the court be an issue for the Utes?
Oregon State does not field a tennis team.
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