Danielle Lao has won nine straight singles matches on the way to this week's action in Virginia.
Feb. 7, 2012
USC Women's Tennis Release
The No. 16 USC women's tennis team will make its resurgence on the scene of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships this week, having made the cut for the top-16 tourney and carrying an unblemished 5-0 mark across the country. Charlottesville, Va., is host to this year's competition, which opens up Friday (Feb. 10) and runs through the title match on Sunday (Feb. 14). USC is lined up against No. 8 North Carolina for its first-round match at 3:13 p.m. on Friday for the right to move into Saturday's quarterfinals. FOLLOW ALONG
ITA RANKING UPDATES
The latest round of 2012 Campbell/ITA national team rankings were unfurled Feb. 2, with the USC women at No. 16 in the land for the third straight cycle after finishing 2011 at No. 19. Four Women of Troy also pop up in the Jan. 3 individual rankings as well. Freshman Sabrina Santamaria (winner of the 2011 ITA Southwest Regional singles crown) tops the singles list at No. 18 just a step ahead of her No. 19 classmate and fellow regional finalist and recent Freeman Memorial champ Zoë Scandalis. Junior Danielle Lao -- winner of the NCTC singles crown last week -- is next at No. 42, and sophomore Kaitlyn Christian is No. 99. Christian and Santamaria also own the title of 2011 National Indoor Doubles Champions, and start out 2012 as the No. 3 ranked doubles team in the nation.
INSIDE THE INDOOR
The ITA National Team Indoor Championships features the winning teams out of the 15 different ITA Kick-Off Weekend competitions, held in late January, along with host Virginia for a 16-team bracket of the nation's best. The top eight seeds in the draw are: No. 1 Duke, No. 2, UCLA, No. 3 Baylor, No. 4 Georgia, No. 5 California, No. 6 North Carolina, No. 7 Virginia and No. 8 Michigan. The rest of the field includes Mississippi, Clemson, Texas, Miami, Tennessee, Northwestern and Georgia Tech, along with the Trojans. The draw includes 14 of the nation's top 16 ranked teams, absent #1 Florida and #2 Stanford. #17 Tennessee weighs in just outside that bubble, along with #23 Mississippi. USC missed a trip last year, and went 1-2 in action at the 2010 tournament. USC's best recent finish was a trip to the semifinals in 2003, which had marked the first semifinal appearance for the Trojans since 1988.
The USC women have matched their most powerful start to a season since 2007 with a 5-0 overall record that includes four 7-0 sweeps and one 6-1 victory, thanks to two more shutout wins tacked up by the Trojans last week. USC topped #41 St. Mary's 7-0 and then took down #27 Pepperdine by teh same tally, blasting both opponents in doubles and wrapping up singles with straight-set wins in all but one match. Sabrina Santamaria got the clincher on court three against the Gaels, and Gabriella DeSimone wrapped up the Waves from her No. 5 spot two days later. Alison Ramos preserved the undefeated run through the week by pulling off a three-set comeback win at the No. 6 spot against Pepperdine to keep her dual-match singes record a perfect 5-0. Kaitlyn Christian, Danielle Lao and Sabrina Santamaria also hold 5-0 dual-match singles records to date.
KK'S CONFERENCE HONORS
or her efforts on both the singles and doubles courts in two more Trojan shutout wins last week, Kaitlyn Christian earned her first career selection as Pac-12 Player of the Week on Feb. 6. Christian didn't lose a single set in singles that week, and also won out in doubles as USC topped #34 Saint Mary's and #27 Pepperdine with shutouts. Her singles wins from her No. 4 position were both dominating. #99 Christian beat Anna Chkhikvishili 6-2, 6-2 on Thursday, then blasted Arianna Colffer 6-1, 6-2 on Saturday. Teamed up in doubles with Sabrina Santamaria at the No. 1 position, the #3 pair served up 8-4 wins in both matches. Christian is a perfect 5-0 in dual-match singles now with a 13-4 overall record. In doubles with Santamaria, she holds a 18-3 overall record with a 3-0 dual-match record.
FIRST PICK OF THE PAC
Riding the momentum of an upset win over top-ranked Mallory Burdette of Stanford and #8 Robin Anderson of UCLA en route to the ensuing Freeman Memorial singles championship, #19-ranked freshman Zoë Scandalis stepped into the No. 1 singles slot for her first dual match as a Trojan and shut out her UC Irvine opponent. For her recent successes, Scandalis was named the Pac-12 Women's Tennis Player of the Week on Jan. 28 making her the first Trojan to win the honor this season. Scandalis tallied the first doubles win and first singles win of the day in USC's season opener, winning 8-2 at the No. 3 doubles position with teammate Valeria Pulido, then took to the singles courts to deliver a 6-0, 6-0 sweep of UC Irvine's Courtney Byron on court one. Scandalis is now currently 22-4 overall in singles play.
WINNING BIG IN VEGAS
USC freshman Zoë Scandalis delivered an upset blow to the top-ranked player in the nation as she gutted out a 6-7 (8), 7-6 (5), 6-3 comeback win over Stanford's #1 Mallory Burdette to win it all at the Freeman Memorial in Las Vegas on Jan. 15. Also in title match action in Vegas was Trojan doubles pair Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria. The sophomore-freshman combination worked into today's doubles final at the Freeman Memorial with an 8-4 win over UCLA's Anderson/Morton. In the championship, the Trojan duo faced another Bruin combination in Montez/Dolehide. Christian/Santamaria were unable to pull out the win, however, taking an 8-4 loss to finish as runners-up in the doubles draw. That gives #3 ranked Christian/Santamaria their second tournament title together, going along with the 2011 National Indoor Championship claimed in the fall as the pair now holds an 18-3 overall doubles mark with a 3-0 mark in dual matches.
LAO RISES TO NCTC TITLE
While USC's underclassmen were winning titles in Las Vegas, junior Danielle Lao won her first title since the 2010 ITA Southwest Singles Championship when she upset top-seeded and #29 ranked Emily Fraser of Virginia in a decisive second set in a 7-6 (5), 6-0 win. That claimed the singles crown at the National Collegiate Tennis Classic in La Quinta, Calif., on Jan. 15 for #42-ranked Lao, who now holds a 14-3 singles mark on the season with a 5-0 stand in dual matches.
SANTAMARIA STRETCHES USC'S SOUTHWEST SUCCESS
Freshman Sabrina Santamaria became the fourth straight Trojan to win the ITA Women's Regional Singles Championship with her winning run through the 2011 ITA Southwest Championship tourney in San Diego this fall. The Trojan went up against fellow freshman Zoë Scandalis in the title match, netting a 6-2, 6-1 win. Santamaria was unseeded entering the tourney, and served up surprises for four top-10 seeds during her run to the title. Scandalis was one of those seeded opponents, sitting as No. 10 and with a pair of victories over seeded opponents during her course to the final. One of those wins came in another all-Trojan battle, as Scandalis and defending champ, top-seeded teammate Danielle Lao, squared off in the quarterfinals. It was the third all-Trojan singles final in the past four regionals, as the Women of Troy have claimed the regional singles crown for four straight seasons now. Maria Sanchez won back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009 (beating teammate Alison Ramos in 2008); Danielle Lao won in 2010 (beating Sanchez); and now Sabrina Santamaria has claimed the 2011 title. USC missed out on the singles title in 2007, but got another championship from Sarah Fansler in 2006 and also a title from Amanda Fink in 2005 to make it six Trojan championships in the past seven seasons. Santamaria currently holds a 16-4 overall singles record with a 5-0 mark in dual matches.
USC posted a 15-8 record and a 4-4 finish in Pac-10 play in 2011. The Trojans wound up the year ranked No. 19 in the final ITA team rankings after reaching the NCAA Second Round. In NCAA individual action, Kaitlyn Christian and Maria Sanchez made history with an appearance in the NCAA Doubles Semifinals, becoming the first Women of Troy team ever to reach the NCAA doubles semis. Both earned ITA All-American honors in 2011, with freshman Christian also named the ITA Southwest Region Player to Watch, and senior Sanchez the ITA National Senior Player of the Year to go along with her honor as the Pac-10 Player of the Year. Danielle Lao was named to the All-Pac-10 Second Team. Playing in the NCAA individual tournament were Christian (doubles), Lao (singles, Valeria Pulido (doubles), Alison Ramos (doubles) and Sanchez (singles and doubles). Final ITA rankings had Sanchez #3 in singles and #5 in doubles with Christian. Christian was #90 in singles, and Lao was #23 in singles. Pulido/Ramos were #28 in doubles.