Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
The UCLA men’s tennis team has been ranked in the Top Five literally all season, but this week marks the first time the Bruins have occupied the No. 1 overall slot. And with the Pac-12 Championships on the horizon, it’s as good a time as any to usurp the national throne.
The previously top-ranked Virginia Cavaliers slipped to No. 2 in the ITA poll despite a perfect week of ACC road play that capped off their 21-0 regular season. The voters must have been more impressed with UCLA’s two wins against the Top 10 than UVA’s seventh straight undefeated record in conference. It may seem unfair because the Bruins do have one blemish on their 22-1 record, but recent results are the true tell.
UCLA has won 13 consecutive matches since dropping their only decision of the year to then-No. 2 USC in the National Team Indoors back in February. Among those pairings were six wins versus squads currently ranked in the Top 25, including two triumphs over the now-No. 5 Trojans. The Bruins have been a dominant force for over two months, and they’ve earned themselves the top spot.
But then again, Virginia hasn’t lost in 21 tries, including nine matches against teams currently ranked…so maybe the pollsters just felt like shaking things up before the postseason.
Whatever the reason, UCLA sits atop the rankings heading into the home stretch of the season. The Bruins, by virtue of winning the regular-season Pac-12 title, got a two-day bye before beginning the conference tournament. On Friday, they’ll begin postseason play by taking on Stanford at 12 PM at The Ojai, only an hour drive up the California coast.
UCLA has already faced the Cardinal twice this season, notching a 5-2 win in Palo Alto and a 7-0 sweep in Westwood. Stanford finished the regular season tied for fourth in the Pac-12 with an 11-10 overall record, earning a 4-seed in the tournament. The Cardinal earned its third shot at the Bruins by beating Washington, 4-2, on Thursday.
If UCLA can get past Stanford thrice, a meeting with either No. 18 Cal or No. 5 USC would be waiting in the next round. The Golden Bears and Trojans will play their semifinal after the Bruins, and will be looking to move onto the championship finals on Saturday.