No. 4 USC Women Lock Horns With No. 8 Texas
Trojans look to extend a seven-match winning streak against the Longhorns on Wednesday in Austin.
March 13, 2012
USC Women's Tennis Release
The No. 4 USC women get started on a stretch of out-of-state action with this week's journey to Texas. The Women of Troy have set up camp in Austin -- where the USC men are facing the Texas men today -- to do battle with No. 8 Texas (7-3) at 2 p.m. CT on Wednesday (March 14). This will be the USC women's fifth matchup against a top-10 team this season, with the Trojans having topped No. 8 North Carolina and No. 5 California with two losses to UCLA, which was ranked No. 4 and No. 1 in those meetings.
ITA RANKING UPDATES
The latest round of 2012 Campbell/ITA national team rankings were unfurled today (March 13), with the USC women sitting at No. 4 in the land after a No. 2 ranking two weeks ago -- their highest ranking since 2006. USC first cracked the top-10 this year on Feb. 16. Four Women of Troy are holding strong in the top-100 individual rankings (released March 13), led by #18 Danielle Lao followed by #21 Zoë Scandalis, #31 Sabrina Santamaria and #64 Kaitlyn Christian. In doubles, USC has Christian/Santamaria at #4, with Valeria Pulido and Scandalis ranked #49.
USC captured its first Pac-12 win in its conference opener with Washington State last week. The Trojans took early control and stayed on task in working their way to a 6-1 win over the visiting Cougars. USC was all business in doubles play as the Trojans rattled off three decisive wins, sparked by Valeria Pulido and Zoe Scandalis' 8-1 dominance over WSU's Kankaras/Vasilieva on court one. Singles play wound up being a far tighter affair than the doubles scene, however. Kaitlyn Christian and Gabriella DeSimone were able to wrap up their WSU opponents in straight sets, but the rest of the Trojans got locked into longer matches. Christian was the first to finish, notching a 6-1, 6-3 win over Andjela Kankaras on court three for the sophomore's fifth straight win and 20th of the season. DeSimone also rounded up a strong win on a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Ksenia Googe at the No. 4 position, and USC was up 3-0 in the match. Everything else was still very much up for grabs at that point with a smattering of third sets taking shape up and down the line. On court six, Valeria Pulido had struggled in the first and dropped into a hole before rallying back in the second to force a third set. She would take that head of second-set steam and power up in the third to bring home the win on a 1-6, 6-2, 6-1 comeback victory over Olga Musilovich, and the Trojan victory was in the books, albeit with several more matches pending. Danielle Lao also had to overcome a first-set loss in her No. 2 singles battle with Elisabeth Fournier, and the Trojan junior proved up to the task, getting a late break to win the second and bring up a 10-point tiebreaker to decide things, wrapping up her 3-6, 6-1, 1-0 (10-7) comeback to make it a 5-0 USC lead and extend her singles win streak out to 15 straight on her 20th win of the season. On court five, senior Alison Ramos regrouped from a tough second set to focus and overpower WSU's Elizaveta Luzina next, winning hers 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 for a lift to 6-0 for the Women of Troy. That left freshman Zoe Scandalis in a tough spot on court one against #72 Liudmila Vasilieva. Scandalis just couldn't catch a break in her third set, and Vasilieva pulled off the comeback to tally WSU's lone point of the match on a 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 decision.
The No. 8 Longhorns are 7-3 overall after beating William and Mary 5-1 and Michigan 4-2 last week. Texas has three players ranked nationally in singles: #24 Aerial Ellis, #75 Krista Damico and #122 Noel Scott. In doubles, Texas has #23 Padgimaite/Scott. USC is 13-7 all-time against the Longhorns with a seven match win streak dating back to Texas' last win in 1996. USC beat Texas 6-1 last year in Los Angeles, and 5-2 in Austin in 2008.
DESIMONE DOMINATES FOR PAC-12 HONORS
Freshman Gabriella DeSimone secured her first career Pac-12 Player of the Week award on Feb. 27 after serving up two match-clinching singles wins, 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 -- USC's best start to a season since 2006. DeSimone is now 15-6 overall in singles and 10-2 in dual match play.
KK'S CONFERENCE HONORS
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 12-1 in dual-match singles now with a 20-5 overall record. In doubles with Santamaria, she holds a 19-8 overall record with a 4-5 dual-match record at the No. 1 position.
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 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 24-7 overall in singles play.
OUTSTANDING AT THE INDOORS
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.
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 gave #3 Christian/Santamaria their second tournament title together, going along with the 2011 National Indoor Championship claimed in the fall.
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 then-#42-ranked Lao. She's now up to #16 in the land, holding a 20-3 singles mark on the season with a perfect 11-0 stand in dual matches. Lao has won 15 straight singles 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 21-5 overall singles record with a 10-1 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.