By Th‚oden K. Janes

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Is this the winning team?

That is the question Arizona women's tennis coach Becky Bell posed to her players as they gathered on a court at the Robson Tennis Center yesterday, less than 24 hours before the Wildcats' match against Arizona State.

In response, each of the players emphatically cried, "Yes, we're the winning team!" And although the players were simply responding to the question as part of a motivational exercise, the true answer is still somewhat up in the air.

Arizona (8-10 overall, 2-5 in the Pacific 10 Conference South) is 2-8 in its last 10 matches and is flirting with the possibility of not qualifying for the NCAA Championships next month.

But the losses haven't caused Bell to worry too much.

"The way that our schedule is, it's not that we're playing badly," Bell said. "Every loss that we have taken has been to a team in the Top 20."

Despite their losing record, the Wildcats have spent much of the season in the Top 20 as well, and were No. 17 as of last Wednesday.

But a 6-0 loss to UNLV last Saturday may knock Arizona out of the next poll.

Today's match, which will be held at 1:30 p.m. in Tempe, pits the Wildcats against the cross-state rival Sun Devils in what Bell called "a friendly rivalry" _ despite the fact that players could be heard calling them the "Scum" Devils during yesterday afternoon's practice.

Leading the way against ASU will be No. 1 singles player Celine Verdier, a senior from Roussillon, France, who has faced some extremely tough opponents this season.

"Every person that she has played has been a Top 10 player in the country," Bell said of Verdier, who is one of three European players on the team. "She's been very, very close in some big matches and the difference was usually execution or shot selection _ it's nothing she should worry about."

Also in today's lineup will be the No. 2 singles player, senior Michelle Oldham, and a number of quality lower-seeded players that have helped provide the team with tremendous depth.

But still, the Wildcats have only six matches remaining to improve their shot at next month's NCAAs in Athens, Ga.

Likely, it will take at least four wins for a berth.

"We should get in the NCAAs, but we're not sure," Bell said. "I don't know if every team will get in. There are a lot of teams kind of right on the bubble, but I think we have a shot."