2011 USC Women's Tennis Outlook|
Jan. 5, 2011
This time last year, USC was a top-10 team, but the Women of Troy would later slip to No. 20 by season's end.
This year, there will be no slipping.
Ranked No. 19 to start its 2011 campaign, the USC women's tennis team has its climbing ropes anchored and ready for a rise to power on the national scene. Whereas last year's Trojans were a largely young squad, the Trojans of 2011 have made the transition to an experienced group. Talent, too, is not lacking in the lineup, which is headlined by USTA/ITA National Indoor champion Maria Sanchez. Now a senior, Sanchez opens the year as the nation's No. 3 ranked singles player, and she has a pair of teammates also in the rankings as well.
Sophomore Danielle Lao - ITA Southwest Regional Champion in the fall - has taken hold at No. 10 in the nation, and freshman Kaitlyn Christian is ranked No. 114. On the doubles side, Valeria Pulido and Alison Ramos rank No. 11 in the nation, and both are also dangerous singles players. Christian and Sanchez pull double duty in the rankings as they have proven a potent pair in doubles as well, weighing in at No. 80 on the doubles scene.
It's a powerful corps for a USC team determined to make a mark on the 2011 season to come, and head coach Richard Gallien is confident in his Women of Troy and their ability to put forth a well-rounded and successful season.
"I would say the strength of our team is that we don't have any weaknesses with the exception of potentially depth," Gallien said of his team of eight active players. "We are highly skilled, with a lot of talent, and a lot of character. But we don't have a lot of bodies. Whatever we're ranked, nobody's going to want to play us. My only hope is that we can stay free of injuries for the most part and get a little bit of luck. I think we're a team that deserves some luck."
USC comes off a 2010 season in which the Trojans reached the NCAA Tournament once again, and finished the year at 14-10 overall after a 5-3 mark in Pac-10 play. All but one player return from that roster, and with the addition of the talented Christian and fellow freshman Hayley Miller, Gallien has high hopes for his streamlined 2011 roster that brims with skill as well as high spirits.
"When things get hairy, and it's a nasty, tough match and the balance is still out there, I've always thought the person with the highest level of character has a great chance to win, plain and simple," Gallien said. "I like our team, and it's going to be a lot of fun. I'm going to make sure it's a lot of fun and that we're enjoying the nasty, tough matches, and that our seniors are enjoying their last year. It's a game and it's meant to be fun."
Sanchez clearly enters her senior season as USC's top gun as a 2010 ITA All-American and All-Pac-10 First Team selection. She's had a pair of unrelenting classmates by her side for the past three seasons in Cristala Andrews and Lyndsay Kinstler, who have snagged many a win in singles and doubles for the Trojans and remain factors in the USC lineup. Now a junior, Alison Ramos has proven herself a tough competitor with a knack for winning, and sophomores Danielle Lao and Valeria Pulido have their first year under their belts and are also now widely regarded as talented winners.
"I really think that we can play with anybody," Gallien said. "Valeria and Danielle know the deal and what to expect. Maria is as confident as she has ever been. Kaitlyn is a winner and is a great addition to our team.
"I think we're pretty balanced. The trick is, to the best of your ability, to contest each position ferociously and not give anything up."
The Trojans are definitely determined not to give up any ground this season. Instead, it's all about channeling that strong character and balanced talent into a climb up the charts and into prominence.
It all begins soon. The Women of Troy open the fall with a couple individual tournaments beginning on January 14, with the first dual match action coming on January 18 against Cal State Northridge on USC's home turf.