After USC's uncharacteristic first-round exit from the NCAA women's tennis tournament last spring, Coach Dave Borelli left the season behind him, shifted into the future tense and spoke about his promising recruits.
Now, five months later, the future already has turned into the present for the Trojans.
It took just one tournament, the Rolex-ITCA Southern California Collegiate Championships at UC Irvine, to show that USC's absence from the very elite was probably a one-time fluke.
In Saturday's quarterfinals, three USC players were among the final eight. And, in today's final at 10 a.m., it's USC freshman Trisha Laux against USC freshman Stephanie London.
The winner will get an automatic spot in the National Indoor Collegiate Championships, Feb. 4-7, in Minneapolis.
"No one but a USC player has ever won this tournament," said Borelli, who watched his team succumb to injury and illness last year.
"This is going to be a good group, and we've got off to a great start."
Which was an understatement, considering how London and Laux dominated in their semifinal matches. London, seeded seventh, won seven straight games to finish off her 6-3, 6-0 victory over Jen Larking of the University of San Diego. Laux, seeded third, defeated Pepperdine's Janna Kovacevich, 6-2, 6-1.
Kovacevich, who rarely makes unforced errors, was potentially a difficult opponent for the hard-hitting Laux, who needed to hit outright winners to end the points.
In the quarterfinals, Kovacevich had upset a teammate, second-seeded Ginger Helgeson, 6-1, 2-6, 7-5; Laux defeated teammate Mary Norwood, 6-1, 6-3; Larking beat Jennifer Rojohn of Arizona State, 6-4, 6-1, and London defeated Julie Tullberg of San Diego State, 7-6, 6-7, 6-1.
"I was more nervous against (Tullberg)," London said. "She's a good player, there's no doubt about that. I was more tentative against her. I hadn't played (Larking), so I didn't know much about her."
London, however, knows more about her next opponent. They haven't played each other in a tournament since the summer of 1986, but they have in practice this fall. Borelli, however, doesn't want them to tell him the scores of their sets in practice.
"He doesn't want to know who wins, and that's good, because it doesn't put pressure on us," London said. "But I think he does look over to check. He knows what we're doing."
At least for one day, Borelli won't have to sneak any glances.