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Women's tennis heads to L.A. for weekend

By Brian Penso
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday Feb. 21, 2002

The UA women's tennis team heads to Los Angeles this weekend looking to do what the Arizona men's basketball team was unable to do - defeat UCLA and USC.

The challenge facing the Wildcats is much tougher than the one the basketball team faced last week, as the Bruins and Trojans tennis teams are ranked No. 11 and No. 15, respectively.

With the Pacific 10 Conference schedule just getting into swing, these two matches will be a chance for UA to show that they are going to be a force to reckon with in the Pac-10.

On the season, No. 44 Arizona (4-0 overall, 1-0 Pac-10) has played well, but they will have to come out full-force this weekend.

"It is very important for us to come out and play well," sophomore Debbie Larocque said. "USC and UCLA are among the best in the conference and I think that we are, too. This will give us a chance to show that to everyone. I think we are capable of doing that."

This match marks the first time this season that UA enters a contest as the underdog, but coach Vicky Maes is not concerned because she knows that her players have confidence in their ability.

Their tough conference road trip begins Friday against USC.

The Trojans (4-3, 0-1 Pac-10) hold a 32-15 all-time record against Arizona, including winning both matches last season.

Southern California will be a good test early in the season, but UA has to worry about playing two top teams on the road in consecutive days.

"We are excited to play two top teams," Maes said. "It will be a tough two days, but that is what tennis is all about. It would be nice to be at home, but playing on the road keeps us focused because all we do is live and breathe the match. There will be no distractions and I think that we will be better."

The Bruins (6-0, 1-0) haven't missed a beat this season as they have posted a 5-2 or better score in each of their first six matches.

UCLA's six wins include a victory against cross-town rival USC, who was ranked seventh at the time.

The Wildcats will need a team effort this weekend to be successful, but the play of freshman standout Maja Mlakar and sophomore Debbie Larocque will be especially important.

As UA's top two players and top doubles team, Larocque and Mlakar have a chance to earn the Wildcats three of the possible seven match points, which will likely be the difference in the match.

Maes said she has been pleased with UA's play, but she has been more impressed with the will and continual fight in each Wildcat player.

"We are a really close team," Larocque said. "Everyone cheers everyone on and that will help us so much on the road. When we are down, everyone cheers each other on and that helps us keep playing hard. We are playing as individuals, but for the team."


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