Women's Tennis
    USC Women Take on Two This Week

    March 8, 2011

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    The No. 16 USC women have two more matches on tap this week. The Women of Troy (8-2, 1-0 Pac-10) engage in nonconference play, hosting one match and taking a cruise up the road for another. First, USC will take on No. 59 Fresno State in a 1 p.m. match at Marks Stadium on Thursday (March 10). Then it's up to Malibu for a clash with No. 30 Pepperdine at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday (March 12).

    The latest 2011 Campbell/ITA national team rankings were released March 8, with the Women of Troy ranked No. 16 in the nation. Individual rankings came out March 1, with three Trojans ranked in singles and two doubles teams in the mix. Maria Sanchez leads the pack as the reigning National Indoor Singles Champion and the nation's #2 singles player. ITA Southwest Regional Singles Champion Danielle Lao opened the year in the top-10 at #10 on the list and is now #18 in the land. And freshman Kaitlyn Christian now ranks #113. In doubles, USC has ITA Southwest Regional Doubles champs Valeria Pulido / Alison Ramos up to #10 and Kaitlyn Christian and Sanchez ranked #20 after starting out the year at #80.

    The Bulldogs enter the week at 3-5 overall with a match against UCLA in the books before the matchup against the Trojans. Fresno State has #77 Lucia Batta ranked in singles. USC is 15-1 all-time against Fresno State after a 6-1 win over the Bulldogs last season at Marks Stadium.

    The Waves enter the week at 6-2 overall with a match against San Diego State coming up before the clash with the Trojans. Pepperdine has #36 Bhargava/Zalameda ranked in doubles. USC is 38-12 all-time agianst Pepperdine with the Trojans holding a 13-match win streak after a 6-1 win over the Waves last season at Marks Stadium.

    USC's four-match win streak came to a halt last week at the hands of crosstown rival No. 17 UCLA. Playing in Westwood for their first collision of the year, the Trojans and the Bruins fought their way through to an eventual 5-2 UCLA victory. USC had staged a doubles comeback to snag the first point of the match, but the Bruins came back with a powerful singles push, claiming the first sets down the line except for the No. 1 slot, where Maria Sanchez worked her way to a win to expand the senior's singles win streak. Two days later, USC took an important first step in Pac-10 action with a 6-1 win over visiting No. 20 Washington. The Women of Troy got an impressive doubles sweep before gutting out singles play for a 6-1 win over the Huskies. Doubles play was highlighted by a comeback surge from USC's #20 Christian/Sanchez for an 8-7 (3) upset of Washington's #6 Chan/Dy. Singles play was a similarly competitive affair as the Huskies claimed the first set on four different courts to put the Trojans in a comeback situation. Cristala Andrews and Kaitlyn Christian, however, had set themselves up well with solid first set victories, winning in straight sets to help get USC in position for the 6-1 win.

    USC senior Maria Sanchez rode a 15-match win streak all the way to the top of the ITA/Campbell National Rankings, as the Trojan took over as the top player in women's collegiate tennis in the Feb. 14 rankings. Sanchez opened the spring ranked No. 3 overall, having established herself as a national champion in winning the prestigious ITA National Indoor Championships during the fall. While a No. 1 in the land, Sanchez held the highest ranking of her career, and becomes the first USC women's player to rank No. 1 since Amanda Fink did so in 2006. During her winning surge to the top, Sanchez captured wins over four top-10 singles players and pieced together six consecutive straight-set victories. Now No. 2 in the latest ITA rankings, Sanchez currently boasts an 18-match win streak for a dominating 23-1 overall singles record. Her only loss to date came in a three-setter to her own teammate, Danielle Lao, in the ITA Southwest Regional Championship match.

    For her winning run through three dual matches in mid-February, Maria Sanchez picked up her fourth career honor as the Pac-10 Player of the Week on Feb. 14. She had a hand in at least one clinching victory in all three USC wins, coming through with the winner in the doubles point against San Diego State and Texas, and locking down the match-winning singles victories against South Florida and also against Texas. Sanchez pinned up straight-set wins in singles in all three matches - taking down both the No. 25 ranked player and the No. 8 player in the nation in the process. In doubles, she and teammate Kaitlyn Christian upset USF's No. 45-ranked team and also beat Texas' No. 87 pair. Sanchez and Christian are now No. 20 in the nation and hold a 12-match winning streak.

    USC made it a championship sweep at the Freeman Memorial Championships in Las Vegas in January. Maria Sanchez dominated across the board with a winning run to the singles title as well as the doubles crown alongside freshman teammate Kaitlyn Christian. Then ranked No. 3 in the nation on the singles side, Sanchez snagged the top seed in the singles draw at the Freeman Memorial. The senior served up straight-set wins to all opponents except her semifinal foe Nicole Gibbs of Stanford. But once that win was under her belt, it was cruise control for Sanchez in today's title match. Sanchez topped No. 2 seed Olivia Janowicz of Florida with a smooth 6-3, 6-0 win to claim the singles crown for the USC senior. Next, it was over to the doubles courts to team back up with Christian as the draw's No. 3 seeded team in the mix. Christian/Sanchez were all business as they took on Bruins Jones/Johansson and posted a powerful 8-4 win over the UCLA pair in the championship match to lock in on another title for the Trojans. For her powerful efforts in the first action of the spring, Sanchez grabbed the first Pac-10 Player of the Week award of the year on Jan. 18.

    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. Whereas last year's Trojans were a largely young squad, the Trojans of 2011 have made the transition to an experienced group. Maria Sanchez clearly entered 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.

    USC will welcome four new players to the courts next season, with the recent signings of a group of individuals who have each been ranked in the U.S. National top-10 in the past year. Joining the Women of Troy for the 2011-12 season are Gabrielle DeSimone, Giuliana Olmos, Sabrina Santamaria and Zoe Scandalis, USC head coach Richard Gallien announced. The class has been tabbed No. 1 in the nation according to Tennis Recruiting Network.