Top-Seeded USC Women Storm Through To NCAA Semis|
May 17, 2015
WACO, TEXAS -- The top-seeded USC women's tennis team showed no fear in a tough NCAA Quarterfinal match against No. 8 seeded host Baylor. On the Bears' home courts at Hurd Tennis Center in Waco, Texas, the Trojans stole away a tight doubles point to start and then saw their freshmen come through in the clutch to ring up a 4-1 victory. Now 25-2 overall, the Women of Troy head into the NCAA Semifinals for the second time in four seasons. The last trip was in 2012, when this year's seniors were freshmen. Tomorrow (May 18), USC brings its balanced attack back to the NCAA semis, where it will face No. 4 seeded Vanderbilt at 5 p.m. CT.
The doubles point was a doozy. While USC's Giuliana Olmos and Zoë Scandalis were holding court at the No. 2 spot, the other Trojan duos found themselves down a break on courts one and three. Olmos/Scandalis whipped up an 8-4 victory over Baylor's Anderson/Van Zyl on court two to give USC an early edge, but the doubles point was far from over. Freshmen Gabby Smith and Madison Westby fought off three match points to pull within one, down 7-6 on court three, but the Bears' Generette/Shankle pulled off the 8-6 victory to draw things even. That put all eyes on court one, where USC's Zoë Katz and Sabrina Santamaria had fallen behind 5-2 before manufacturing a comeback push. Katz/Santamaria rallied to within one, then leveled it at 6-6 with a key break of Bears Burgic/James-Baker. An excruciatingly long game next saw Santamaria hold serve and take the Trojans ahead 7-6, but Baylor fired back and leveled it up 7-7 to force the tiebreaker. The Women of Troy took control in the breaker, shoving ahead 3-0 and then staying the course to a 7-1 decision that pocketed the important first point of the match for USC on their 8-7 (1) victory to make it a 1-0 Trojan advantage.
Singles play was entirely unpredictable. The Trojans and the Bears split first sets, as USC fell behind at the top of the lineup but had the early advantage in the bottom half -- where the USC freshmen were making a stand. As the second sets unfurled, USC's veterans made their moves. Giuliana Olmos and Zoë Scandalis fired back to snag the second sets on courts two and three, respectively, while Sabrina Santamaria had worked her way out in front on court one. Meanwhile, freshman Madison Westby had carved out a groove on court four. She'd pull off a tiebreaker in the first set and then steered her way to the finish line first, making it 2-0 Trojans on her 7-6 (4), 6-2 win over Rachael James-Baker.
Right next door to Westby, fellow freshmen Meredith Xepoleas hit the afterburners on her court six matchup with Baylor's Kelley Anderson. Xepoleas issued her 21st consecutive singles win on a 6-4, 6-2 victory that pumped the Trojans to a 3-0 lead on the Bears, with the Trojans looking strong on the remaining courts. At the No. 1 spot, Santamaria would get tangled up in a tiebreaker against Baylor's Ema Burgic. The senior fought off two match points before Burgic managed the winner, capping a 6-2, 7-6 (6) win over Santamaria to put a point on the board for Baylor. Unfortunately for the Bears, USC had another feisty freshman forging a path to victory. On court five, Gabby Smith had dug her way out of a 3-1 hole in the second set, winning four straight games to take the lead before finally finishing things off by holding serve for a 6-1, 6-4 victory that clinched the match for the Women of Troy. That left action suspended for Olmos and Scandalis, with both veterans having made a statement with their comeback pushes.
"First of all, [I've] got to congratulate Baylor," head coach Richard Gallien said. "They were a very good team. On one hand it's good to be at home. Then it's got to be a lot of pressure. I don't know how they handled the crowd, but I think we were handling it very well. The crowd was terrific, very, very fair, enthusiastic, but not at all nasty. I think we played very good tennis for a long period of time. To concentrate for that long of a period and stay emotionally strong, I was very proud of us."
USC is the top-seeded team in the NCAA draw for the first time since 1985, when the Trojans last won the national championship. This is USC's 24th straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, and the Trojans will be making their third NCAA Semifinal appearance in 10 years -- all under head coach Richard Gallien. USC also reached the semis in 2006 and in 2012.
2015 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS (Hurd Tennis Center Waco, Texas)