Court Coverage With Nina Pantic

April 9, 2010

It's April and we're entering the final stretch of the 2010 regular season for women's tennis. After handling our first Pac-10 match quite easily at Oregon, we began spring break training on a great note. With all the free time off from school, the team spent some extra hours on the court and we ended the week beating both Washington State and Washington. Besides the hard work on and off the court, we participated in a wide variety of team bonding activities. One highlight, that I'm sure would thrill nearly every So Cal female, was the group pedicure we had in Westwood. I had no idea massage chairs were part of the deal so it was incredibly relaxing, though awkward, to let strangers touch my feet. Let's be serious, athletes do not have pretty feet! In fact, it's a badge honor and proof of all our hard work.

Our most challenging team activity was the Sunset Recreation Center ropes course. Last fall the team went through a 'challenge course' that included various teamwork games and the climbing of a large telephone pole. The height of the pole isn't even the intimating part. Rather it's the last little bit that kills us. The climber has to step on top of the pole and stand up as it wobbles crazily, and then turn and jump off. Most of the team survived this ordeal of 'mind over matter' last fall, but a few lucky girls got their chance over spring break and everyone succeeded in reaching their goals. The highlight had to be Noelle Hickey's timid (and very slow) climb while being cheered on by the entire team. At one point Noelle demanded we stroke her ego more urgently so someone yelled out 'You look fabulous!' If that's not team love I don't know what is.

After the endless training over spring break, we headed up to Northern Cal for Pac-10 matches against Cal and Stanford. Needless to say a lot was on the line as it was our chance to end Stanford's 159-match winning streak at home. Unfortunately that didn't happen and although we didn't get to leave with a win, we did gain experience in dealing with our first rough crowd of the year, coupled with some finicky weather. The rain even resulted in a total rain-out against Cal on Sunday. On our way to the airport from Berkeley one of our vans, led by two coaches and filled with half the team (who all have GPS on their phones), got so lost that we nearly missed our flight. As it turned out, the plane was delayed due to the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Mexico so everything worked out and no one needed to be blamed.

Since the rain and lack of indoor facilities was preventing us from playing tennis while up north, we sought entertainment in other areas. Led by Coach Sampras's husband Steve, we put on a somewhat successful Bruin karaoke night (sadly, the show was only for us). It was more like a Bruin Idol because of the wide range of singing talent. There was plenty of awful noise and very few spots of inspiration (mostly from Yasmin Schnack and Steve). The cheering voice you hear out on the courts does not do justice to Steve's impressive singing ability. Yasmin and Steve opened the show by thrilling the crowd with the tackling of a challenging duet. Their rendition of 'The Prayer' by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli was intense, but was later beaten by Stella and Steve's very electric performance of 'You're the One That I Want' from Grease. The rest of the team made up for lack of singing talent with a multitude of erratic dance moves and eruptions of uncontrollable laughter. We quickly figured out that our skills are best displayed on tennis courts and not stages.

Next up are more Pac-10 matches beginning with Arizona and Arizona State this weekend. We close out the season with USC next Friday at home. The USC match is a special one for a number of reasons, one of which is that it's Senior Day and thus Yasmin Schnack's last home match. We're also making it a breast cancer awareness match and will be dressed in pink from head to toe. So please come out and support the team.

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