March 25, 2010
No. 19 Huskies Back In Action At USC And UCLA
The Huskies are facing their toughest road trip of the year this weekend, coming back from nearly a three-week break to face USC and UCLA in Los Angeles. It will be a homecoming of sorts for sophomore Samantha Smith, who hails from the L.A. area. Smith has been a consistent winnner in the middle of UW's singles lineup since her arrival in the fall of 2008. This year she is tied for the team lead with nine dual wins and her overall career record stands at 40-19, impressively winning more than two-thirds of her matches.
One of Smith's best matches was an upset of Allison Ramos at fourth singles last year at USC as the Huskies earned a 4-3 upset of the Trojans in the NCAA Second Round. Smith and the Huskies now it will be a tough task to win two in a row at USC, but they are ready to fight this Friday. Smith talked with GoHuskies about heading back to her hometown, prepping for the L.A. schools, and her recent choice of a major.
GoHuskies.com: How has practice been over the break? Do you feel back into it and are you ready for matches?
Samantha Smith: Practice has been good. During finals week it is a little bit lighter and more relaxed. Now that it is getting closer we are working on a lot more stuff. It is a little bit more intense. The main thing we are working on is footwork and that has to do in drills, like consciously before we hit the ball, a little bit more footwork. The schools that we are playing this week, USC and UCLA, are going to be tough and we need that.
GH: Since you guys have had a long break, does it almost feel like postseason is starting this week with the teams you guys are going to be playing and the competition being tougher for the next couple of weeks?
SS: It kind of throws you off a little bit, but we have a few more days of just playing practice matches. I think that will get us back into the mood. It does throw you off a little bit, but we can handle it and we will get right back into it.
GH: What are your thoughts on how you've been playing recently?
SS: I think that I have been playing well, but I am still not at the point where I'd like to be. Mentally I am trying to fight for every ball and use better shot selection and working the court like I know, just going back to what I used to do for us. I think I've improved on some other things, which that's helped.
GH: What are some of the things you feel you've improved on since freshman year?
SS: I think closing the point better, closing the games better and finishing it well. Starting the game well and finishing it well. That is what I want to do.
GH: Many of your recent wins have been comebacks where you've dropped the first set but then rallied. That's certainly a good thing to be able to battle back, but do you think there was anything causing slow starts?
SS: (laughs) It is actually something I've gone back to from juniors. I remember every single match I would be 4-1 down and come back and win. I am a slow starter. I have always been a slow starter but I think since I came here I had gotten out of (the pattern). You see it as unusual but I am like, `Oh shoot! I am reverting back.' I think it is kind of my fault too just because I need to work more on points during warm-up I think. Do a little bit better on my warm-up, that would help me.
GH: Naturally you are just a little more comfortable playing from behind then?
SS: Yeah maybe sometimes I need to feel it, but I would rather not.
GH: What are some of the bigger differences between freshman year of college and now? What ways are you more comfortable in general?
SS: I think the usual, nerves and expectations when you first come in. Nobody knows me so you can just do whatever you want. It is hard for other players to figure out your game when they don't know you and things like that. But now you aren't as nervous as you used to be.
GH: With the Los Angeles trip coming up, and you're obviously from the area, do you get to see a lot of family and friends on the trip?
SS: Yeah I am going to see my family of course. They are always going to come. If they don't I will be mad. More people that I know throughout my whole life are going to be there and that have worked with me in tennis and just played with me at the parks and stuff. A lot more people are going to be there. I am going to be happy to see them. I am looking forward to it.
GH: You had a big win against USC last year in the NCAA tournament; do you consider that your best match?
SS: Every time I think about that win it brings a smile to my face. It is not just that she is highly ranked, it's overcoming the mental part. I have always had trouble with her mentally and we do have a history, Alison and I. I am really happy that I won. Every time I think about it, it is something I can go back to and gain confidence from.
GH: How are you guys bracing yourself for a team like USC who will certainly want to come out and get some payback for NCAAs last year?
SS: I think we know that they are going to want to jump on us as soon as they can and in any kind of way. They will use that as an opportunity to get one up on us. It is going to be a tough match. We know they are USC and they are going to fight either way, so we just have to be ready from the first point.
GH: What are the keys for the overall team to get back into the round of sixteen at the NCAA's or to go further?
SS: We need to stay strong with our doubles. I think that is a big determining factor whether it puts us one up or gives us any kind of mental advantage. I think doubles is very key and if we do well on that the singles will take over. Singles we need to stay mentally strong and be ready to play and ready to fight.
GH: Have you settled on a major yet?
SS: I was just talking about that with (Nordstrom Tennis Center Director Molly Pavia) a few minutes ago. I did get a good grade in the class that I was hoping to get a good grade in, hoping to see if I would like that to be my major. Yes, I have decided and I think I am going to go with political science. I am going to talk to the counselor about that.
GH: What got you interested in that as a possible major?
SS: My teammate Vanja (Radunovic) just told me to try it and that I might like it. I was kind of hesitant to because I did not know if I could handle it because it is a lot of work, reading, and papers. I wanted to do something that would challenge me. She said, `This will challenge you and you can do well.' She got me into it and we had class together and it was fun.