No. 23 ASU women’s tennis will resume matches against highly ranked California teams against No. 13 USC on Friday and one against No. 3 UCLA on Saturday.
UCLA is led by No. 4 junior Robin Anderson, who occupied the top spot in the national rankings during a stretch of the season.
She will likely be put up against sophomore No. 60 Stephanie Vlad of ASU. Anderson defeated Vlad in the regionals in October 2012 by a score of 6-3, 6-2.
ASU coach Sheila McInerney said she is excited for Vlad to play against such highly ranked opponents, and said the same for sophomore Desirae Krawczyk.
“Des has had a really good year,” McInerney said. “I think for her to get the opportunity … it’s exciting.”
Including Anderson, the Bruins have five ranked singles players. This includes junior No. 11 Chanelle Van Nguyen and freshman No. 16 Jennifer Brady, who McInerney said is “probably the best freshman in the country.”
USC was recently struck by the injury bug as the Trojans saw their top player, junior No. 15 Sabrina Santamaria, tear her ACL. This will ease the competition for ASU, but by no means make the match an easy one.
“They’re still certainly very formidable,” McInerney said.
The Bruins have five healthy ranked players, led by junior No. 26 Zoe Scandalis.
These two teams will create a daunting task for the bottom four ASU players in the lineup playing against ranked players.
Freshman Kassidy Jump has played well of late, currently residing in the third lineup spot. McInerney was impressed by her efforts against Cal and Stanford, and Jump played a competitive match with the No. 14 player in the nation. She’ll be tasked against two more ranked players and her success may be vital for the team to pull away with a win.
Freshman Gussie O’Sullivan will be pressed to get a victory as well. Currently in the sixth spot, she dominated against Colorado and Utah, taking the Colorado match to 6-1, 5-0 and winning the Utah match 6-1, 6-2.
If she remains in the lineup, it is possible she’ll be the only ASU player facing a non-ranked individual. If she can use this to her advantage, ASU will have a shot.
Both USC and UCLA have also played stellar tennis in an area in which the Sun Devils have struggled: doubles. UCLA has the No. 1 and the No. 4 teams in the nation, and USC has the No. 7, 12 and 54 teams.
McInerney is not sure how this will affect the lineup. She mentioned that all three duos may change, but she said she isn’t sure. Lineups typically aren’t decided upon until the day before the match, or sometimes the day of.
“Our kids know how to play doubles. They just don’t execute,” she said.
They will have to execute to defeat these teams. California schools attract talent from their academics, athletic prestige and weather, McInerney said, and both USC and UCLA are chock-full of those aspects.
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