Women's Tennis

    Nov. 5, 1997

    Tennis Teams Looking for Improvement

    Though the 1998 USC men's and women's tennis teams may look very similar to last year's squads, there's one aspect both will be striving to change -- last season's finish.

    The men's team, with only one player from last year's rotation gone, will try to bounce back from a season that saw the Trojans miss advancing to the NCAA's Sweet 16 for the first time in Dick Leach's 18 years as a head coach at USC.

    The women's team, which loses no one from its regular rotation, will at the very least try to stay healthy. The Women of Troy fielded their full lineup in only two of the season's last 12 matches because of injuries up and down the ladder. They, too, will be seeking a return to the NCAA Championships after losing in the West Region finals last year.

    The men's team expected to struggle somewhat in 1997 after having to replace its top five players. But a host of newcomers helped the Trojans to an 18-6 record before they lost in the West Region finals, ending Troy's string of success.

    "What we did last year was not up to our usual standards, but we still did pretty good," Leach said. "We had a tough year, but I feel good about what we were able to do."

    Among the highlights was the play of transfer George Bastl, who made it all the way to the finals of the NCAA Individual Championships in singles and to the finals of the doubles championships with Kyle Spencer before losing in both. Now a senior, Bastl is primed for greatness.

    "George is a very special player," Leach said. "He's one of the hardest-working players I've ever had. He's a team leader. I have to say that whenever he loses, I'm very surprised. He will go down as one of the great players in USC history."

    Other top players include senior Fernando Samayoa and sophomores Patrick Gottesleben and Akram Zaman.

    In the preseason team rankings, USC is No. 11, while in the player rankings, Bastl is No. 5 and Gottesleben is No. 32. The doubles team of Bastl and Spencer is ranked No. 1 in the country.

    With all of the regulars back, plus the addition of freshman Krissy Hamilton-Heinberg, the top-ranked junior in Southern California, head coach Richard Gallien is optimistic about this season.

    "It's pretty simple," he said. "If everyone's healthy, we're a good team. There's no question that we have the talent to be a top-10 team.

    "I feel that we'll be greatly improved in doubles this year. A lot of the credit should go to our new assistant coach, Glenn Michibata. He's put in a lot of work toward helping our players individually and as a team."

    Among the top returners for the Women of Troy are senior Nicole London, juniors Karolina Bakalarova and Ditta Huber and sophomores Jacqui Boyd and Veronika Safarova.

    Last season, USC ended up ranked No. 32 with an overall record of 10-16. In this year's preseason rankings, USC is No. 26 as a team and Bakalarova is No. 55, Safarova is No. 66, Hamilton is No. 88 and Huber is No. 91.