USC Women Fall In Tight NCAA Semifinal
May 21, 2012
ATHENS, GA. - The USC women's tennis team fourth face-off of the year against crosstown rival UCLA took place three time zones away in a Trojan-Bruin NCAA Semifinal clash in Athens, Ga. The top-seeded UCLA squad grabbed the all-important doubles point to start things off, and although the Women of Troy would fight back to take a 3-2 lead on gutsy singles wins from Gabriella DeSimone, Valeria Pulido and Sabrina Santamaria, UCLA pulled out the last two three-setters to win it 4-3. The Trojans wrap up 2012 as NCAA Semifinalists with a 24-4 overall record to mark USC's winningest season since 1985.
The Trojans were making their first NCAA Semifinal appearance since 2006 and were coming off an impressive 4-2 upset of Stanford in the NCAA Round of 16 to set up the fourth USC-UCLA clash of the year. USC had beaten UCLA 6-1 in their Pac-12 meeting last month, and the Bruins had claimed a 4-0 win in the ITA National Team Indoor Semifinals and a 4-3 win in a nonconference bout earlier this season.
As action opened up today, the Bruins were the beneficiaries of the doubles point with wins on the first two courts. UCLA's #6 Anderson/Morton built a lead on USC's #2 Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria at the No. 1 spot and held on for an 8-3 win. A tight match on court two would also go the way of the Bruins, who saw #9 Dolehide/Montez pull out of a 4-4 tie with USC's #49 Valeria Pulido / Zoe Scandalis to clinch the doubles point for UCLA on an 8-4 decision. On court three, USC's #75 Danielle Lao and Alison Ramos were ahead of their Bruin opponents Jones/Seguso 6-5, but the action wrapped before they could make a winning move.
Singles play was a battle from the start, split down the middle with three Trojans taking first sets and three Bruins doing the same. What would seem to be a daunting lead at one point would soon turn as the rivals tugged back and forth down the stretch. In the end, it would come down to court two, where USC's #19 junior Danielle Lao had fought back in the second set but was trailing UCLA senior McCall Jones 2-5 in the third. Lao fought off one match point, but Jones held on and got the clincher with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 decision.
It was just as tense on the other five courts throughout the action that set up that decider. #89 sophomore Kaitlyn Christian wound up losing ground to UCLA's Skylar Morton on court two, and the Bruins pulled ahead 2-0 on Morton's 6-4, 7-5 win. Everything else, however, would stretch into marathon matches as the heat cranked up on the courts of Dan Magill Tennis Complex. Gabriella DeSimone made a shocking comeback on court five to get USC its first point. DeSimone rebounded from a rough start and then refused to trail again as she swept her way to an 0-6, 6-2, 6-4 comeback against Chanelle Van Nguyen to make it 2-1.
#26 Sabrina Santamaria also showed some freshman gusto on court three in staging a third-set rally against #73 Pamela Montez. Santamaria shrugged off a 3-4 deficit in the third and roared to victory with a 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 win that locked things up 2-2 between the Trojans and the Bruins. Meanwhile, on court six, Valeria Pulido was chugging away at a third-set rally against UCLA's Carling Seguso. Pulido put Seguso out of reach in the third and whipped USC ahead 3-2 in the match on her 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 win. USC's #14 freshman Zoe Scandalis was up against her second top-five opponent in a row in UCLA's #4 Robin Anderson, but Scandalis made a statement with a spirited tiebreak win in the first set, having taken control of an 0-3 start to win that set with a 7-5 tiebreaker. Anderson fought back in the second, though, and was able to mount a strong lead in the third to pull the Bruins back even with a 6-7 (5),6-4, 6-2 decision over Scandalis. That then shifted the focus to court two, where Lao and Jones were engaged in that heated battle in the clincher.
The USC women and the USC men were both making NCAA Semifinal appearances today, marking the first time in school history that both teams have played in NCAA semifinals at the same site. In 1988, both teams reached NCAA semifinals, but they were held a week apart at two different sites.
After the close of team action, USC had landed several players on the NCAA All-Tournament Team. At No. 3 doubles, Trojans Danielle Lao and Alison Ramos were honored for their strength in NCAA action, and Sabrina Santamaria picked up the selection at No. 3 singles for all-tournament accolades.
2012 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS (Dan Magill Tennis Complex - Athens, Ga.)