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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

The strength of a Pac

Every time the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) updates its rankings of the top-75 teams in the nation, you can bet one on thing – well, six or seven things this season in particular.

The Pacific 10 Conference will be making its mark.

If you’re tired of hearing about the Southeastern Conference in football or the Atlantic Coast Conference and Big East conferences in basketball, then why don’t you come over to college tennis, where the Pac-10 reigns?

According to the latest rankings released Tuesday, the Pac-10 has six men’s teams in the rankings and seven women’s teams in the top slots. In fact, five of the six ranked men’s teams all are in the top 25, with Arizona being the only outsider at a strong No. 35. Talk about dominating.

Because Arizona State, Oregon State and Washington State do not field men’s tennis teams, Oregon is the only non-ranked school, and even so, they hold a 10-3 record. This is after finishing near the bottom of the conference last year.

The women are no different. They have five of their seven ranked schools in the top 20.

The top teams in the Pac-10 not only lead the conference, but also make up the nation’s cream of the crop. For the men it’s USC and UCLA at No. 5 and 6, respectively, with the women having UCLA and California at No. 4 and 5, respectively.

Even with Arizona at No. 39 for the women and Arizona State at No. 44, being ranked at that level is no small feat.

“”Even though the Pac-10 has always been the best conference, things have shifted a lot and, in my opinion, most schools have gotten even stronger all the way down the line-up,”” said Arizona women’s head coach Vicky Maes, who played tennis on the UA women’s team in the late ‘90s.

The fact that schools all around have improved is a testament to how good the Pac-10 actually is.

As another example, the men’s national champion last year, USC, didn’t even win the conference. That distinction went to the Bruins of UCLA.

“”USC, UCLA, Stanford, Cal — those are teams that other (schools) would love to have on their schedule and yet we get to play some of them at home even,”” said men’s assistant coach Tom Lloyd, who played tennis for the Wildcats in the early 2000s.

There is no loss of excitement for the UA players, since they get to play some of the nation’s elite on a regular basis.

“”I mean, if you are not motivated when you play Stanford, who has the most national championships in the nation, or Cal, who has been runner up at the national championship these past two years, then you can go home,”” said senior women’s player Ariane Masschelein.

Scott Treibly, the head coach and director of college placement at the IMG/Bollettieri Academy in Florida, couldn’t help but bring up the strength of the Pac-10.

“”When you’re talking about college tennis, you can’t pick a better conference to play in where you have a chance to play some of the best athletes in college tennis,”” he said of the Pac-10.

And that’s coming from a national director of college placement.

Evidence of the conference’s superiority is clear when looking at its championship history as well.

On the women’s side, since 2000, six of the 10 NCAA Division I championships have been won by a Pac-10 school. It should be noted, however, that Stanford accounts of five of those, and since the women’s championship began playing in 1982, the Cardinal have 15 championships.

For the men, there was a streak from 1973 to 2002 where the Pac-10 — more specifically Stanford, UCLA or USC — won the championship every single year.

This season the Wildcats are continually cementing themselves as one of the stereotypical Pac-10 teams that nobody wants to play, and people take notice.

As the Wildcats gear up for their month-long grind in conference play, there’s no question that difficulties will arise, but it’s something that will make them stronger in the end and continue to show that the conference is the best in the nation.

Men’s head coach Tad Berkowitz summed it up nicely with a statement echoed by others.

“”You talk about the Pac-10, you call it the conference of champions, and that’s definitely the case in tennis, that’s for sure.””

 

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