2008 USC Women's Tennis Outlook|
Jan. 16, 2008
In a dozen years at USC, head coach Richard Gallien has seen his share of talent pass through the courts of Troy.
A consistent flow of winners has propelled the Women of Troy to nine straight appearances at the NCAA Championships and four straight second-place finishes in Pac-10 action. Last season, the USC women's tennis team posted a 19-5 overall record and reached the NCAA Championships Round of 16. This year, the Trojans are ranked No. 8 nationally in the ITA preseason rankings.
Headlining the recent successes of the Women of Troy has been Lindsey Nelson. The 2007 Pac-10 singles champion has now made back-to-back trips to the NCAA singles final. A two-time Honda Award finalist, Nelson is USC's lone senior on the roster this year.
And yet, lack of experience is the farthest thing from Gallien's mind.
Not when you have two ITA National Rookies of the Year playing just behind your three-time All-American.
"Lindsey firing on all cylinders puts a lot of pressure on other teams," Gallien said of his decorated No. 1 singles star. "I feel that Lindsey is extremely committed to making this last season of hers a big one not just for herself but more for her team.
That's crucial for us. And I know that Sarah and Amanda would say the same thing."
Fansler and Fink stacked up at No. 2 and No. 3 singles, respectively, throughout much of the 2007 season. After leading the Trojans in singles wins with 32 as a freshman, Fansler earned a spot in the NCAA Singles Championships along with Nelson. Fink shined in singles and doubles once again, and earned her second All-Pac-10 selection.
"Sarah is very gritty and has a great deal of heart and very good skills," Gallien said of Fansler. "And Amanda is poised to have a marvelous year. Mentally, she's one of our toughest kids in singles and doubles."
Granted, the Trojans did lose a strong set of seniors to graduation in 2007. Anca Anastasiu, Judy DeVera and Dianne Matias served crucial roles on the USC ladder during their Trojan careers. Their reliability on singles and doubles will be missed, but Gallien remains excited about the incoming talent he has lined up for the 2008 campaign.
"Change is inevtiable in coaching college," Gallien said. "You're sad to see kids go, but you're super excited to see new kids come in. I think the fact that we have five new players and we're preseason eighth in the country really shows what those new players are thought of."
Due to NCAA rules, Gabriela Niculescu sat out her first year at Troy. She's good to go for 2008, however, and stands to be a powerful addition to the USC singles and doubles games. Niculescu and Fink already teamed up in doubles action, claiming the ITA West Regional doubles championship in the fall. And Niculescu wields an impressive singles game as well. Adding further depth to the USC roster is Amber Harper, who enters her third season with the Women of Troy.
"Gaby is a great competitor," Gallien said of Niculescu. "She is totally built for the college game, with her enthusiasm and flair and the fact that she's a very gifted player."
"They've all had a great deal of success as juniors," Gallien said of his freshmen. "Maria is a stud, Cristie is tough, and Lyndsay and Leyla are both really, really good. The team will definitely benefit from the amount of depth and a great deal of competition."
In order to stretch USC'sc NCAA appearance run to 10 straight trips, the Women of Troy will have a long dual-match season to power through. The only teams to beat the Trojans during the regular season in the past three years -- since Lindsey Nelson took up residence at Troy -- have been Pac-10 teams Stanford, Cal and UCLA, and nonconference foe Baylor. The Trojans will have their usual two clashes with the Pac-10 schools, and the only out-of-state nonconference trip on the docket will take USC to Texas for a dual match tilt in March.
"We have a lot of firepower, more firepower than we've ever had before," Gallien said. "We're the type of team that if we can get to NCAA healthy and hot and confident, we have enough juice to get the job done."