Once, long ago, UCLA was able to defeat USC in women's tennis.
Bill Zaima remembered. The problem was that his players--people like team leaders Jane Thomas and Maria LaFranchi--didn't remember because they hadn't been able to record a dual-match victory over the Trojans. In fact, UCLA hadn't defeated USC since 1982.
Zaima, who became the Bruins' head coach for the second time last spring, had guided UCLA past USC during his first stint in the '70s. And somehow, he passed along that knowledge Saturday afternoon as the Bruins defeated the Trojans, 6-3, at the L.A. Tennis Center.
"These things go in cycles," said Zaima, whose squad is ranked No. 3 in the nation. "I remember when we used to beat them the same way. There's no question that they (USC) have been the top program in the country during this time.
"But this is very gratifying because this is the same team that was in trouble last year. I don't know how far we are going to go. But I do know that the pressure is going to keep mounting."
On Saturday, there was enough for an entire season. Although UCLA managed to take four of the six singles matches, Zaima said the pressure clearly bothered Allyson Cooper (No. 4), Catherine O'Meara (No. 5) and LaFranchi (No.6).
"We were playing against tradition, and I think they got scared," Zaima said.
Both Cooper and O'Meara lost in straight sets. But LaFranchi managed to overcome her nerves and fought off three match points to defeat USC freshman, Lupita Novelo, 0-6, 6-4, 7-5. Her victory was basically the key to the match, although Thomas and Jennifer Fuchs finally clinched it with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Novelo and Ginny Purdy in No. 1 doubles.
No. 4-ranked USC was missing Mary Norwood from its lineup. Since Norwood has been battling the flu, the Trojans hoped the addition of Caroline Kuhlman would lift the team.
Kuhlman, who would normally play No. 1 singles, hadn't played a match since Jan. 4 because of tendinitis in both knees. She lost, 6-1, 6-2, to Fuchs at No. 3 singles.
The other Bruin victories came from Thomas at No. 1, Joni Urban at No. 2, and LaFranchi-O'Meara at No. 3 doubles.