77-47. That’s the record UCLA men’s tennis has over its crosstown rival USC.
On Friday, another rivalry game is taking place as the No. 7 Bruins (6-1) prepare to take on the No. 9 Trojans (8-1) at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Division I National Men’s Team Indoor Championship in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Freshman Evan Zhu said the Bruins know how important each match against the Trojans is, and he is looking forward to his first career game against the crosstown rivals.
“You try and go into every match with the same mindset, but there is definitely an extra something for the USC match,” Zhu said.
Senior Gage Brymer, one of the veteran Bruin players, knows the expectations coming into the dual match and also remembers his past matchups with the Trojans.
“Anytime we play USC, it’s a big deal to us,” Brymer said. “We know their team pretty well. We have some confidence against them, and we need to play the same game style as we’ve been playing for the last couple weeks.”
The Bruins are coming into the match after sweeping the Tulsa Golden Hurricane 7-0 but regardless, coach Billy Martin sees room for improvement.
“We need to get into a more aggressive mentality,” Martin said. “There were times in Tulsa where we were not aggressive enough and we need to get out in front of the net more.”
Zhu is looking to turn his fortunes around after having a 1-2 record in his past three matches. However, with his 6-3, 6-2 win against Tulsa, he said he is feeling more confident in his play.
“I need to be more composed on the court,” Zhu said. “I did better against Tulsa, and I just need to trust my teammates more and play hard to succeed.”
UCLA knows that it needs its singles lineup to step up to the challenge against USC.
With 13th-ranked freshman Brandon Holt and 36th-ranked sophomore Logan Smith leading the way for the Trojans, the Bruins are relying on the big-game experience from 19th-ranked Brymer and 73rd-ranked junior Martin Redlicki.
[Related: Duke’s loss of Redlicki is UCLA’s gain]
“I think all around I need to play pretty solid, and I think we will match up well with them,” Brymer said. “I just need to play solid tennis at back and from the net.”
If UCLA emerges victorious against USC, it will play the winner of the No. 1 Virginia and Utah State game Saturday.
But before then, UCLA prepares for the first of three matches against USC this season.
“I can tell you that none of our players are going into the game flat,” Martin said.