Women's Tennis
    Top Teams Tangle At Troy: No. 2 USC Hosts No. 1 UCLA

    Danielle Lao brings a 12-match singles win streak into Thursday's clash with the Bruins.

    Feb. 28, 2012

    USC Women's Tennis ReleaseGet Acrobat Reader

    Off to its best start since 2006, the 9-1 USC women's tennis team is living large in the nation's top-10 for the third straight week after knocking off No. 5 California last week. Now, the No. 2 Women of Troy are looking for payback against No. 1 UCLA (11-0) this week after the Bruins got the win when the teams last faced at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in early February. USC gets to play host to its crosstown rival for this rematch of the nation's top two teams, taking on UCLA at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday (March 1) at Marks Stadium. The Trojans also host No. 70 San Diego in a 12 p.m. match on Saturday at Marks Stadium.

    The latest round of 2012 Campbell/ITA national team rankings were unfurled today (Feb. 28), with the USC women powered up to No. 2 in the land -- their highest ranking since 2006 --- after having cracked the top-10 two weeks ago on Feb. 16. Four Women of Troy are holding strong in the top-100 individual rankings (released Feb. 28), led by #13 Zoë Scandalis. Junior Danielle Lao is next at #16, followed by #26 Sabrina Santamaria and #84 Kaitlyn Christian. In doubles, USC has Christian/Santamaria at #3, with Valeria Pulido and Scandalis ranked #39.

    USC hauled in a winning effort last week in shutting out No. 66 UC Santa Barbara and upsetting No. 5 California 4-3 in action at Marks Stadium. Gabriella DeSimone had the clinching singles wins in both matches for the Trojans, fighting back from a first-set loss against the Gauchos to win that one for USC. Two days later, DeSimone's heroics came in a straight-set win that gave USC a 4-2 advantage over the Bears to record the upset win. Despite a win from Valeria Pulido and Zoe Scandalis in doubles, the Trojans had lost the doubles point to the Bears. USC was unfazed, however, and rallied back with singles wins from Danielle Lao, Kaitlyn Christian, Sabrina Santamaria and DeSimone to lock away the victory.

    Freshman Gabriella DeSimone secured her first career Pac-12 Player of the Week award after served up two match-clinching singles wins last week, including a winner in the Trojans' upset victory over No. 5 California to snap a five-match losing skid for USC against the Bears. DeSimone opened the week with an impressive three-set comeback win that clinched an eventual 7-0 USC win over UC Santa Barbara. DeSimone bounced back from a first-set loss to Paola Cos with a dominating effort in the next two sets, including a shutout in the third for a 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 victory. Two days later, DeSimone held strong against her ranked Cal opponent, #103 Cecilia Estlander, to register another big clincher in a 7-5, 6-2 win that put the Trojans ahead 4-2 in the match. USC's eventual 4-3 decision over the Bears was the second upset win over a top-10 team for the Trojans this season. The winning week improved the No. 7 USC women to 9-1 overall. DeSimone is now 13-5 overall in singles and 8-1 in dual match play.

    The USC women reached the semifinals of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships for the first time since 2003 and third time overall with an impressive run at the action out in Charlottesville, Va. To open, USC gutted out its first win over a top-10 team since 2009 with a 4-2 comeback win over No. 8 North Carolina in the first round. After UNC sneaked away with the doubles point, USC buckled in for the long haul in singles, claiming three straight-set victories before junior Danielle Lao pinned up the heroic clincher with a three-setter from court two. In the quarterfinals, USC locked in on its best start since 1999 in claiming its seventh straight win of 2012 with a 4-1 comeback win over No. 17 Tennessee. The Vols were riding an upset of No. 5 Baylor from the previous day on the way into the quarterfinal clash with the Trojans, but again USC was undeterred when the doubles point slipped away from its grasp. Instead, USC answered the call and flexed its singles muscle with four straight-set wins to plow to a 4-1 win over the Vols, clinched this time by Gabriella DeSimone. In the semis, USC went up against No. 4-ranked rival UCLA and this time was unable to fight back from falling in the double point, as the Bruins claimed a 4-0 win over the Trojans on their way to winning it all with a sweep up top-seeded Duke in the title match.

    The No. 1 Bruins are 11-0 on the year after beating Cal 4-3 last week to go along with their title at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. UCLA has seven players ranked nationally in singles: #5 Robin Anderson, #70 Courtney Dolehide, #74 Pamela Montez, #80 Kaitlin Ray, #94 Chanelle Van Nguyen, #104 McCall Jones, #107 Skylar Morton. In doubles, UCLA has #14 Anderson/Morton and #15 Dolehide/Montez. USC is 43-37 all-time against the Bruins with losses in the past five meetings, including the 4-0 loss in the semifinals of this year's ITA Indoors.

    The No. 70 Toreros are 1-5 overall after a 5-2 loss to South Carolina and a 4-3 loss to LSU in their last action. USD has no players ranked in singles or doubles. USC is 24-3 all-time against the Toreros after a 5-2 win over USD last season in San Diego.

    For her efforts on both the singles and doubles courts in two Trojan shutout wins, 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 currently 9-1 in dual-match singles now with a 17-5 overall record. In doubles with Santamaria, she holds a 19-7 overall record with a 4-4 dual-match record.

    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 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 23-5 overall in singles play.

    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 gave #3 Christian/Santamaria their second tournament title together, going along with the 2011 National Indoor Championship claimed in the fall.

    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 17-3 singles mark on the season with a perfect 8-0 stand in dual matches. Lao has won 12 straight singles matches.

    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 20-4 overall singles record with a flawless 9-0 mark in dual matches as she rides a nine-match win streak.

    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.