After a strong showing at the Intercollegiate Tennis Assocation Indoor National Championships, including USC’s first semifinal appearance since 2003, the Women of Troy begin a five-game homestand this weekend against UC Santa Barbara and No. 5 California.With wins over then-No. 8 North Carolina and then-No. 17 Tennessee in Virginia two weeks ago, USC (7-1) has broken into the top 10 for the first time in nearly two years.The now-No. 7 Women of Troy have a full slate this weekend starting off against UC Santa Barbara on Thursday at 1:30 p.m.USC’s last loss to UCSB occurred in 2003 and USC holds a 22-1 all-time record against the Gauchos.For coach Richard Gallien’s group, Thursday is a perfect way to continue to build off the momentum of the first few weeks of the season as the rival Golden Bears head into Marks Stadium on Saturday.This early-season matchup against Cal is a great measuring stick for the Women of Troy to see where they fall in the hotly contested Pac-12 conference. Despite a 31-30 all-time advantage over the Bears, USC will be looking to snap a five-game losing streak against Cal.Just like USC made a semifinals run in the ITA Indoor Championships, Cal (6-1) also reached the final four of the tournament before losing to No. 3 Duke, which was virtually playing a home game in Virginia.Even with the loss to Duke, the Bears were remained in the ITA top five and they are led by a core of four top-100 singles players, including No. 3 Jana Juricova.Along with Juricova, the Bears have No. 23 Zsofi Susanyi, No. 48 Tayler Davis and No. 85 Anett Schutting, not to mention No. 103 Cecilia Estlander, rounding out a powerful top five in singles.Fortunately for the Women of Troy, depth has been paramount to their success and it was never more evident than two weeks ago in Virginia when three different players each recorded match-ending wins.Gallien has raved about the maturity of his group, especially the freshmen who have been plugged into the starting lineup: No. 10 Zoë Scandalis, No. 24 Sabrina Santamaria and Gabriella DeSimone.For the freshmen, this weekend’s matchup with Cal is just another step in the development of their young careers, but it also represents a changing of the guard in the Pac-12.While the season’s still young, this weekend will give coach Gallien more insight into how far USC can go this season and in the future. Rivalry games against Cal will always have an air of importance around them, and with both teams ranked in the top 10 this early in the season, the struggle for power in the Pac-12 seems to be starting already.
1 The agent of Arsenal target Mehdi Benatia has rubbished claims that his client will leave Bayern Munich this summer.The defender has made just 13 league appearances for the German champions this season and it is rumoured he could be on his way out the door.Arsenal tried to buy the Moroccan in 2014, while Juventus and Roma have expressed an interest in signing the 29-year-old this summer.But Benatia’s agent, Moussa Sissoko, insists his client has not been holding any talks about leaving Bayern.“Could Benatia return to Italy?” Sissoko told LaRoma24. “I don’t think so.“There’s a meeting set for next week to talk to Bayern. There’s nothing with Roma, he’ll stay at Bayern.“Contact with Roma? It’s absolutely not true, there’s been nothing at all. Juventus? No, I haven’t talked to them.” Mehdi Benatia