USC Women Dig Back Into Pac-12 Play With Friday Clash With Oregon|
March 22, 2016
The Women of Troy are back in Los Angeles now to set up for a Pac-12 matchup against Oregon this week. No. 29 USC (7-4, 2-0 Pac-12) will host the No. 35 Ducks (11-3, 3-1) at 1:30 p.m. on Friday (March 25) at Marks Stadium in an effort to extend the Trojans’ four-match win streak and perfect 2-0 start to Pac-12 action.
ORACLE/ITA RANKINGS UPDATES
The Women of Troy — NCAA semifinalists in 2015 — started the new year right where they left off, as the No. 2 team in the land in the first team rankings of 2016. In the latest round of national rankings (March 22), USC stands as the No. 29 team in the land. In the latest set of individual rankings (March 22), USC has five Trojans locked in with singles rankings. Senior Giuliana Olmos continues to lead the way, now ranked #22 in the nation. She’s followed by two freshmen — #99 Jessica Failla and #106 Rianna Valdes — and two sophomores — #108 Gabby Smith and #123 Madison Westby. In doubles, USC boasts the #8 pair in the land in Olmos and Smith. Smith also enjoys a #69 doubles ranking with Failla, while Zoë Katz and Westby now stand at #71.
The No. 35 Ducks are 11-3 overall and 3-1 in Pac-12 play after beating Arizona 6-1 and losing to Arizona State 4-3 last week. Oregon has two players nationally ranked in singles: #70 Kennan Johnson and #124 Alyssa Tobita. In doubles, the Ducks have #35 Johnson/Sangwan in the rankings. USC is 21-0 all-time against the Ducks after the Trojans posted a 6-1 win in Los Angeles in the teams’ Pac-12 meeting last year. Against the No. 15
USC nabbed two important wins last week, starting with a solid 5-2 upset of No. 16 Oklahoma State on the Trojans’ home courts. From there, USC went out to Indian Wells and beat No. 52 Baylor in a 4-0 sweep at the BNP Paribas Open Collegiate Challenge presented by Oracle. Against the No. 16 Cowgirls, doubles matches were a tight affair until the Trojans were able to make moves on courts one and two. At the No. 2 spot, Zoë Katz and Madison Westby got on a hot streak in turning a 3-3 lockup into a 6-3 win. Not long after that, USC’s top guns, #8 Giuliana Olmos and Gabby Smith stayed the course and pinned up an identical score to beat #15 Alvarez/Laurente and tack a 1-0 Trojan lead onto the scoreboard. In singles action on court six, #111 Rianna Valdes made sure to finish off her Cowgirl opponent with a swift 6-2, 6-1 win to put the Trojans ahead 2-0. At the No. 2 spot, Oklahoma State was able to get on the board and close the gap when #35 Vladica Babic beat USC’s #101 Westby 6-3, 6-4. Just minutes later, however, fellow sophomore #90 Gabby Smith padded out the Trojan lead once again. She’d shrug off an early deficit in the second set and make a move to victory, punching up a 6-3, 6-2 win to charge up USC to a 3-1 lead, just a win away from victory. The deciding stroke would come from the hands of freshman #125 Jessica Failla, who turned the tide on an 0-3 start and rattled off eight straight games to get back into control. Failla stole away the last two games with a hold and a break to notch the clincher on the board for USC with her 6-3, 6-3 victory. With the match decided, there were two matches still underway. On court three, Oklahoma State’s #65 Viktoriya Lushkova was able to fight back against USC’s Zoë Katz and finish off a three-setter 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 to make it 4-2. At the No. 2 spot, however, USC’s #25 Giuliana Olmos was far from ready to give in to Oklahoma State’s #30 Katarina Adamovic. Olmos trailed 4-5 in the second set but kept fighting. She’d push back and win the second set and force a 10-point tiebreaker to decider her battle on court one. In the breaker, it was all Olmos. The senior whipped up a 10-3 win to top off a 2-6, 7-5, 1-0 (10-3) comeback victory and wrap the match as a 5-2 Trojan victory. In a neutral clash with No. 52 Baylor — a rematch of last year’s NCAA Quarterfinals — the Women of Troy grabbed the doubles point and then hit the gas in singles with three straight-set victories to punch up the win. USC’s doubles depth helped the Trojans counter a loss on court one, where Baylor’s #17 Generette/Shankle upended USC’s #8 Olmos/Smith. Both Women of Troy would rebound with key singles wins later, while their teammates came through in the clutch on the doubles courts to help USC along to the early lead. Freshman tandem Failla/Valdes opened the day with a swift shutout to give USC the first lift. The first point would come down to Katz/Westby on court two. The Trojan pair dug in for a win in a tiebreaker, claiming a 7-6 (2) win to tack a 1-0 lead on the board for USC. In singles, the Trojans were in complete control. On court four, #90 Smith got in a winning groove and rolled out a 6-1, 6-2 win to make it a 2-0 USC lead. At the No. 6 spot, #111 Valdes stayed in winning form and issued a commanding 6-2, 6-1 win, and the Trojans were a win away from victory with a 3-0 lead. Cue #25 Olmos. The senior had shrugged off her doubles loss and was in fine form in singles as she left Baylor’s Kiah Generette behind and inked the clincher for the Trojans on a 6-2, 6-4 win that made it 4-0 and suspended play on the remaining courts.
SOLID SENIOR STATUS
USC’s lone senior this season is the talented top gun Giuliana Olmos, the Trojans’ only ITA All-American on the roster and a true veteran for USC. Her list of accolades continues to grow. A 2014 Pac-12 Doubles Champion with then-senior Kaitlyn Christian, Olmos would also earn All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention and reach the NCAA Singles and Doubles Rounds of 32 in her sophomore season. As a junior, Olmos won the ITA Southwest Regional Doubles Championship with partner Gabby Smith and went on to reach the Pac-12 singles semifinals, earned a place on the All-Pac-12 First Team and worked her way into the NCAA Singles Round of 32 as a 9-16 seed and to the NCAA Doubles Round of 16. Now a senior captain for the Women of Troy, Olmos continues to raise the bar as she’s stepped into the No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles slots this season. Olmos opened the 2015-16 season with her highest career singles ranking at #10 in the land. Her highest career doubles rank was #4 in February 2014 alongside Zoë Scandalis.
Senior Giuliana Olmos and junior Zoë Katz are the veterans on the Trojan roster this season, with three sophomores and two freshmen joining them for the bulk of the playing time in 2016. Sophomores Gabby Smith, Madison Westby and Meredith Xepoleas got a lion’s share of experience as freshmen as they helped anchor USC’s run to a No. 1 ranking and a run to the NCAA Semifinals in 2015. This year, that trio of sophomores brings back their savvy in helping USC’s newcomers settle into the lineup. Freshmen Jessica Failla and Rianna Valdes are key components in the USC ladder, and both are now ranked in the top-70 in the national rankings to date.
BY THE NUMBERS
USC’s winningest Trojan in the singles realm this season so far is freshman Jessica Failla, who has claimed a team-best 15 singles wins to date. That has her just a step ahead of junior Zoë Katz’ 14 wins, while a pair of Trojans weigh in with 13 in the win column — senior Giuliana Olmos and sophomore Gabby Smith. In doubles, USC’s winningest pair is the powerful #8-ranked Olmos and Smith, who have tacked up 12 wins together so far this season.
USC had two Pac-12 road matches canceled by rain in March. USC’s March 11 matchup at No. 23 Stanford was the first to be rained out. On March 12, USC was in Berkeley to take on top-ranked California, but rain caused that match to be postponed until the next day. March 13 wasn’t much better, as the teams barely got started in doubles when rain halted the match. Both matches will be played as necessary in April in conjunction with the Pac-12 Championships in Ojai, Calif.
ROSE CUP TO THE RESCUE!
Four years ago, USC women’s tennis decided it wanted to make a difference in the world. When then-junior Kaitlyn Christian’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, now-senior Giuliana Olmos was moved to find a way to help. Olmos and her teammates started the Rose Cup — named for Kaitlyn’s mother — to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research. Every fall since the event’s inception in 2012, USC student-athletes combine forces on the courts at Marks Stadium in support for the cause. Rose has since beaten her disease, and this season the Trojans dedicated their efforts in honor of Madison Westby’s aunt Pam, who is currently in her own fight with breast cancer. At the fourth annual edition of the Rose Cup — held in November 2015 — the $5,000 raised through the tournament, t-shirts sold and other donations went directly to Dr. Julie Lang’s research lab at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.
MARKS STADIUM UPGRADE
The USC men’s and women’s tennis teams have called the David X. Marks Tennis Stadium home since its construction in 1971. This year, Trojan tennis moves back into a revamped and renovated home that is up-to-date and in line with the impressive accomplishments of both programs. The courts were open for action throughout construction, and a ribbon-cutting and dedication for the new facility was held on Feb. 16 to officially unveil the newest additions to the Marks Tennis Stadium — the Buntmann Family Tennis Center, Fritz B. Burns Center Court, Lisa and Douglas Goldman Family Student-Athlete Learning Center and Michael Uytengsu Tennis Pavilion — the happy home of the USC men’s and women’s tennis teams. The Buntmann Family Tennis Center entrance and lobby welcomes fans and visitors and put on display the rich history of USC tennis. To improve the building functionality and support the tennis program operations, the new Lisa and Douglas Goldman Family Student-Athlete Learning Studio supports direct collaboration between coaches, staff and athletes on a daily basis. The teams also utilize and enjoy brand-new suites with lockers, showers, team meeting rooms and lounges. Both teams have access to a new training room, a stringing storage area and a large multi-purpose room. To better accommodate and enhance the spectator experience, new spectator shade canopies have been added and a new elevator to the seating area has been installed. In addition to the lead gift from the Buntmann family, the renovation has been made possible thanks to financial support from the Lisa and Douglas Goldman family, the Fritz B. Burns Foundation, John Shea and Michael Uytengsu.
The 2015 Women of Troy had a banner season in earning their first #1 national ranking in over a decade and working their way to the NCAA Semifinals for the second time in four seasons. USC’s 25-3 final overall record marked the most wins by the program since USC won the NCAA title in 1985 and the most wins in head coach Richard Gallien’s 20-year tenure with the program. The Trojans also went undefeated in Pac-12 play in 2015 to win another conference title, and worked its way to the top of the national rankings for the first time since 2003. USC also was seeded No. 1 in the 2015 NCAA draw — the Trojans’ 24th consecutive trip to the tournament — entering the tourney as the top seed for the first time since 1985, when USC last won a national championship. In all, it was an outstanding season for the Women of Troy, who were a balanced mix of veteran strength and freshman talent. For seniors Gabriella DeSimone, Sabrina Santamaria and Zoë Scandalis, the year marked their second NCAA Semifinal appearance, having reached that round as freshmen in 2012. Santamaria and junior Giuliana Olmos both picked up ITA All-American honors at the close of the season. Scandalis would go on to earn high honors as a top-9 finalist for the NCAA Woman of the Year awards. •