Women's Tennis
    USC Women Take A Swing At Cal And Stanford

    March 22, 2011

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    The No. 13 USC women dive into some serious Pac-10 play this week with their first face-offs of the year against Cal and Stanford. The Trojans play host to this year's conference collisions with the No. 10 Bears and the No. 2 Cardinal, first squaring off against California at 1:30 p.m. on Friday (March 25) before looking to knock off defending NCAA champion Stanford at 12 p.m. on Saturday (March 26) at Marks Stadium.

    The latest 2011 Campbell/ITA national team rankings were released March 22, with the Women of Troy ranked No. 13 in the nation. Individual rankings came out March 15, with two 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 current #1 singles player. ITA Southwest Regional Singles Champion Danielle Lao opened the year in the top-10 at #10 on the list and is now #25 in the land. In doubles, USC has ITA Southwest Regional Doubles champs Valeria Pulido / Alison Ramos listed at #11 and Kaitlyn Christian and Sanchez now up to #7 after starting out the year at #80.

    The No. 10 Golden Bears are 11-4 overall and 2-0 in Pac-10 play after beating Hawai'i 7-0 last week. Cal has three ranked singles players (#4 Jana Juricova, #48 Tayler Davis, #57 Annie Goransson) and one ranked doubles team (#3 Andersson/Juricova). USC is 31-28 all-time against the Bears after taking three losses last season. Cal beat USC 5-2 twice during the regular season and 4-1 in the NCAA Second Round in Berkeley last year. USC's last win over Cal was a 4-3 victory in 2009 during Pac-10 play.

    The No. 2 Cardinal are 14-0 overall and 2-0 in Pac-10 play after a 6-0 win over Utah last week. Stanford has five players ranked in singles (#2 Hilary Barte, #11 Nicole Gibbs, #21 Kristie Ahn, #29 Mallory Burdette and #51 Stacey Tan) and one ranked doubles team (#2 Barte/Burdette). USC is 18-58 all-time against Stanford after a 4-3 loss to the Cardinal last season in a match that was suspended and postponed twice due to rain. USC's last win over Stanford was a 5-2 win in 2009 at Marks Stadium -- a victory that snapped a 50-match losing streak to the Cardinal that spanned 23 years.

    This weekend's showdown with Cal and Stanford presents the opportunity for some epic battles on court one. Ranked #1 in the nation, USC's Maria Sanchez could go up against top-4 players from Cal and Stanford. The Bears have #4 Jana Juricova, and #2 Hilary Barte stands atop Stanford's ladder. Sanchez and Juricova tangled once already this year, with Sanchez snagging a three-set win over Juricova in the ITA National Indoor Singles Championship match. Sanchez and Barte have not faced this year, although Sanchez can claim the latest victory over Barte in another three-set nail-biter during the last USC-Stanford dual match last season.

    USC played two tight matches in a split last week. The Trojans built up a big lead in the first match to tack up a 4-3 win over visiting Syracuse in the first-ever matchup between the two teams. USC won the doubles point and got singles wins from Maria Sanchez, Kaitlyn Christian and Cristala Andrews to lock down that victory. The next day, USC hosted an upset-minded ASU team, which had just beaten Cal in Pac-10 play. USC swept the doubles point and got quick wins from Sanchez ­-- her 22nd consecutive singles win -- and Lyndsay Kinstler to take a 3-0 lead, but the No. 21 Sun Devils regrouped with wins on the middle four courts, netting three-set wins at the No. 5 and No. 4 positions to manage the 4-3 comeback win over the Trojans.

    With Maria Sanchez leading the way with 27 singles wins on the season, two Trojans joined the senior in the 20-win column with recent victories. USC sophomore Danielle Lao notched her 20th win of the season on March 12 at Pepperdine, and freshman Kaitlyn Christian hit 20 against Syracuse on March 15. Three USC doubles teams are closing in on that count. Christian Sanchez holds a 19-2 overall record, followed by 18-6 pair Valeria Pulido/Alison Ramos and 16-6 Lyndsay Kinstler/Danielle Lao.

    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 #3 overall, having established herself as a national champion in winning the prestigious ITA National Indoor Championships during the fall. While at #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. After moving to # for one cycle, Sanchez is back on top at #1 in the latest ITA rankings, currently boasting a 22-match win streak for a dominating 27-1 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 #25 ranked player and the #8 player in the nation in the process. In doubles, she and teammate Kaitlyn Christian upset USF's #45-ranked team and also beat Texas' #87 pair. Sanchez and Christian are now #7 in the nation and are 19-2 overall.

    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 #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.