1999 UCLA Women's Tennis Season Outlook

Depth enhances possibilities for 1999 Bruins.

January 14, 1999

The prospects for the UCLA women's tennis team in 1999 are filled with endless possibilities despite many unknowns. The Bruins boast one of the largest rosters in years with five newcomers on a squad which saw just two complete their eligibility last season. Even though there are seven returning players, it is the additions to this year's roster coupled with the healthier state of the returnees which enhance the depth of the lineup and intensify the competition for playing time. The Bruins lost just two players from last year's lineup in Kelly Rudolph and Kati Kocsis who anchored the No. 4 and 5 positions. In addition to returning the top-three players from last year's lineup, the Bruins are much healthier entering this year as opposed to last when injuries plagued three of this year's returning players. Projected to begin the season in the top-slot is sophomore Cristina Popescu, who earned West Region Rookie of the Year and All-Pac-10 Second Team honors despite an ailing shoulder most of last season. Popescu enjoyed an excellent fall, reaching the quarterfinals of the All-American Championships and the finals of the ITA Regional. Also healthy entering the spring with regained strength in her shoulder is junior Amanda Basica. A 1997 All-American prior to arriving at UCLA, Basica is working on bringing her game back to the level it was prior to the injury a year ago. Basica used the fall to regain confidence and is expected to play in the top-three in singles and in doubles.

A two-time All-American and the 1998 Pac-10 Conference Player of the Year, junior Annica Cooper is taking steps to bring her game to the next level, but changes often result in temporary setbacks which Cooper endured during the fall. Cooper stepped up to have a great sophomore campaign, playing in the No. 1 position throughout the season, and is expected to remain among the top-three this year and to also contribute in doubles. Junior Elizabeth Schmidt is the Bruins' returning No. 3 singles player and a doubles All-American as a rookie. Schmidt looks to provide consistency, but will be pushed hard by newcomers and the return of healthy players. Also looking to stay healthy and be able to contribute in singles after playing primarily doubles last year is junior Katia Roubanova. Talented and capable of solidifying the lineup, Roubanova used the fall to get her singles game back and continues to gain confidence. She was also a doubles All-American as a freshman. Senior team captain Brandi Freudenberg is the Bruins' most experienced collegiate player and a great competitor. After playing No. 6 singles last year, Freudenberg's experience will make it tough to keep her out of the lineup. The seventh returnee on the squad is sophomore Jennifer Donahue, who is expected to fight for time in the lineup.

Leading the list of five newcomers to the 1999 squad are Rochelle Raiss and Petya Marinova. Both will be looking to break into the lineup in singles and doubles. Not to be overlooked are walk-ons Lindsay Taub, Lindsi Shine and Michelle Kazanjian, who each bring individual strengths to the squad and are dedicated to team goals.

When it comes to doubles play, coach Sampras hasn't made any decisions yet. The only team with some success together this year is the tandem of Basica and Cooper which won the ITA Regional in November and enters the season tied for No. 12 in the national rankings. With more players available, Sampras knows that finding the right combinations will be no easy task, but that figuring out those combinations will be a key to the team's success. The first challenge comes early as No. 24 Arizona and No. 12 ASU come to town to open Pac-10 play Jan. 29 and 30. Always one of the toughest conferences in the nation, the Pac-10 promises yet another season of stellar competition with No. 5 Stanford, No. 4 Cal and an improved No. 13 USC team each planning to contend with No. 8 UCLA for the title. The National Team Indoor Championships in mid- February will be a good indicator of UCLA's national standing. The biggest non- conference challenge should come from No. 6 Texas on March 6. The Bruins will look to represent the West Region with pride and gain some respect from the East when they host No. 10 College of William & Mary on March 9. Local rival No. 15 Pepperdine provides an important in-region test as UCLA looks to avenge last year's loss when it hosts the Waves on Feb. 2 then go to Malibu on March 19. The nature of this year's team will be more competitive than in recent history, and the overall morale should be increased due to better health and additional players. The new additions and healthier lineup should raise the level of everyone's game. The larger squad size will lead to a fun atmosphere and supportive nature. Players should be able to be well-rested and remain healthier overall. Perhaps the most challenging aspect will come in the office, as the coaching staff works to put together a lineup for each match.