No. 4 USC Women Fly Off To Face Bulls & Gators In Florida|
Feb. 3, 2016
The No. 4 Women of Troy are off on a journey across the country this week for two weekend matches in Florida. USC (2-1) will set up camp in Gainesville, Fla., for both matches, first facing South Florida for a 1:30 p.m. ET matchup on Saturday (Feb. 6). Then, the Trojans will take on their host No. 3 Florida in an 11 a.m. ET showdown on Sunday (Feb. 7).
ORACLE/ITA RANKINGS UPDATES
The Women of Troy — NCAA semifinalists in 2015 — started the new year right where they left off, as the No. 2 team in the land in the first team rankings of 2016. USC moved to No. 4 in the latest round of national rankings (Jan. 27). In the opening set of individual rankings (Jan. 5), USC boasts two doubles teams in the nation’s top-15, led by the senior-sophomore combo of Giuliana Olmos and Gabby Smith, who stand as the #4-ranked doubles pair. On the singles side, there are five USC women standing tall in the national singles rankings. Led by lone senior Giuliana Olmos — who ranks #42 in the nation in singles and is also ranked at two spots in doubles, including the #4 pairing with sophomore Gabby Smith -- the USC women have two freshmen standing out in the national rankings alongside three ranked returners. Freshman Rianna Valdes is next in line at #48 in the nation, followed by sophomore Madison Westby at #49 and freshman Jessica Failla at #76. Junior Zoë Katz also is locked into the singles rankings at #114. Failla and Smith weigh in at #13 in the doubles rankings, and Olmos/Valdes rank #54 in the land.
SCOUTING SOUTH FLORIDA
The Bulls are 1-2 overall after a 6-1 loss to Florida and a 7-0 win over Florida Gold Coast last week. USF has #78 Nicole Dzenga nationally ranked in singles and no ranked doubles pairs. USC is 2-0 all-time against the Bulls. The last meeting was a 6-1 USC victory in 2011 in Los Angeles.
The No. 3 Gators are 1-0 overall after a 6-1 win over South Florida last week. The Gators will face Florida State on Thursday before playing the Trojans. Florida has seven players nationally ranked in singles: #3 Belinda Woolcock, #11 Brooke Austin, #25 Kourtney Keegan, #51 Brianna Morgan, #56 Josie Kuhlman, #73 Spencer Liang and #110 Anna Danilina. In doubles, Florida has #5 Austin/Keegan, #15 Kuhlman/Woolcock, #33 Kuhlman/Morgan and #50 Danilina/Morgan. USC is 8-12 all-time against the Gators. The last meeting was a 4-1 Florida win during the 2014 ITA National Team Indoor Championships.
USC came up with a split at home last week, falling in a tough and tight match against No. 18 Pepperdine 4-3. The next day, USC righted the ship with a 6-1 win over visiting No. 47 Saint Mary’s. Against the Waves, USC snagged the first win of the day as Rianna Valdes and Madison Westby beat #45 Gulbe/Milovanovic 6-1. On court two, Jessica Failla and Zoë Katz were defeated by Pepperdine’s #8 Runglerdkriangkrai/Stefani 6-2. After being down throughout the set, the #4 Trojan pair of Giuliana Olmos and Gabby Smith fought back against Pepperdine’s #18 Cutura/Maddox to even out the set score at 5-5, but, the Waves made the final push and closed out the set with a score of 7-5 to collect the doubles point. In singles, USC started out strong as #48 Rianna Valdes blasted through her match and beat Christine Maddox with a decisive 6-1, 6-1 score. On court five, Zoë Katz was locked in a close battle with Apichaya Runglerdkriangkrai, who won it 7-5, 6-1 increase Pepperdine’s lead to 2-1 overall. At the No. 2 spot, #49 Madison Westby carried her doubles momentum into singles, powering through her match against Pepperdine’s #102 Laura Gulbe to won 6-4, 6-2 and tie the match up at 2-2. On court three, USC’s Gabby Smith would be the next to claim a point for the Trojans as she defeated Pepperdine’s Matea Cutura 6-3, 6-3. As the Trojans took the lead, battles were still being fought on courts one and four. After falling in the first set, #76 Jessica Failla fought back to bring up a second-set tiebreaker. Her Wave opponent would dig in for the breaker, though, and posted a 6-2, 7-6 (1) in over Failla to level the match again at 3-3. On court one, USC’s #42 Giuliana Olmos was up against #14 Luisa Stefani. Olmos won the first set, but Stefani fought back and forced a third, eventually finishing off the comeback with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 win that clinched the win for Pepperdine. USC’s next matchup against Saint Mary’s saw the Trojans remain largely in control. USC opened the day with a sprint to win the doubles point on wins from Olmos/Smith and from Failla/Katz. In singles, #49 Westby continued her weekend hot streak by dominating the competition on court two. She defeated #103 Jamie Pawid with a decisive 6-2, 6-2 score. After putting up a fight, Meredith Xepoleas was overtaken by Parminder Kaur on court six with a score of 6-4, 6-1 to cut USC’s lead down to 2-1. The Trojans would fire off wins in the remaining four matches next. Straight-set wins followed for #76 Failla, #114 Katz, Smith and #42 Olmos, with Katz’s 6-3, 6-3 sweep standing as the clincher in the 6-1 Trojan team victory.
MARKS STADIUM UPGRADE
The USC men’s and women’s tennis teams have called the David X. Marks Tennis Stadium home since its construction in 1971. This year, Trojan tennis will move back into a revamped and renovated home that is up-to-date and in line with the impressive accomplishments of both programs. The courts have been open for action throughout construction, and now the ribbon-cutting and dedication for the new facility is set for Feb. 16 at 2 p.m. That day, the Trojan Family will officially unveil the newest additions to the Marks Tennis Stadium -- the Buntmann Family Tennis Center, Fritz B. Burns Center Court, Lisa and Douglas Goldman Family Student-Athlete Learning Center and Michael Uytengsu Tennis Pavilion -- the happy home of the USC men’s and women’s tennis teams. The Buntmann Family Tennis Center entrance and lobby will welcome fans and visitors and put on display the rich history of USC tennis. To improve the building functionality and support the tennis program operations, the new Lisa and Douglas Goldman Family Student-Athlete Learning Studio will support direct collaboration between coaches, staff and athletes on a daily basis. The teams will be able to utilize and enjoy brand-new suites with lockers, showers, team meeting rooms and lounges. Both teams will have access to a new training room, a stringing storage area and a large multi-purpose room. To better accommodate and enhance the spectator experience, new spectator shade canopies will be added, a new elevator to the seating area will be installed. In addition to the lead gift from the Buntmann family, the renovation has been made possible thanks to financial support from the Lisa and Douglas Goldman family, the Fritz B. Burns Foundation, John Shea and Michael Uytengsu.
The 2015 Women of Troy had a banner season in earning their first #1 national ranking in over a decade and working their way to the NCAA Semifinals for the second time in four seasons. USC’s 25-3 final overall record marked the most wins by the program since USC won the NCAA title in 1985 and the most wins in head coach Richard Gallien’s 20-year tenure with the program. The Trojans also went undefeated in Pac-12 play in 2015 to win another conference title, and worked its way to the top of the national rankings for the first time since 2003. USC also was seeded No. 1 in the 2015 NCAA draw — the Trojans’ 24th consecutive trip to the tournament — entering the tourney as the top seed for the first time since 1985, when USC last won a national championship. In all, it was an outstanding season for the Women of Troy, who were a balanced mix of veteran strength and freshman talent. For seniors Gabriella DeSimone, Sabrina Santamaria and Zoë Scandalis, the year marked their second NCAA Semifinal appearance, having reached that round as freshmen in 2012. Santamaria and junior Giuliana Olmos both picked up ITA All-American honors at the close of the season. Scandalis would go on to earn high honors as a top-9 finalist for the NCAA Woman of the Year awards. •