March 30, 2011
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The No. 14 USC women head out of state for the first time this season with their weekend itinerary taking the Trojans to Oregon and Washington State for Pac-10 competition. USC (11-5, 1-2 Pac-10) first visits the Ducks for a 12:30 p.m. match in Eugene, Ore., before heading out to Pullman, Wash., for a 2 p.m. clash with the Cougars.
ITA RANKING UPDATES
The latest 2011 Campbell/ITA national team rankings were released March 29, with the Women of Troy ranked No. 14 in the nation. Individual rankings also came out March 29, 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 remains 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 #26 in the land. In doubles, USC has freshman-senior tandem Kaitlyn Christian and Sanchez now up to #5 after starting out the year at #80, and ITA Southwest Regional Doubles champs Valeria Pulido / Alison Ramos listed at #21.
The No. 75 Ducks are 7-9 overall and 1-4 in Pac-10 play after falling 4-1 at BYU and 6-1 at Utah last week. Oregon has #116 Pavlina Smatova ranked in singles and no ranked doubles teams. USC is a perfect 14-0 all-time against Oregon, including a 7-0 win during Pac-10 play last year.
The Cougars enter the week 10-8 overall and 0-5 in Pac-10 play after falling 4-3 to Washington in their last match. WSU has no ranked players or doubles teams. USC is a perfect 16-0 all-time against WSU, including a 7-0 win during Pac-10 play last year.
USC fell in two Pac-10 matches last week, taking a 5-2 loss to No. 10 Cal before slipping 6-1 to No. 2 Stanford at Marks Stadium. The doubles duo of Kaitlyn Christian and Maria Sanchez were the bright spot in the weekend with upset wins over both team's top doubles pair. Sanchez had two tough matches at the No. 1 slot, battling through three sets with Cal's #4 Jana Juricova before taking her first loss in 24 matches, then turning around and topping Stanford's #2 Hilary Barte in straight sets for USC's lone point in that match.
IN THEIR TWENTIES
With Maria Sanchez leading the way with 28 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. One USC doubles teams joined the club last week with Christian/Sanchez's two upset wins vs. Cal and Stanford, while two Trojan tandems are closing the gap in 18-8 pair Valeria Pulido / Alison Ramos and 17-7 Lyndsay Kinstler / Danielle Lao.
STEPPING OUT IN THE PAC
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.
SANCHEZ REIGNS SUPREME
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 #2 for one cycle, Sanchez has been back on top at #1 in the past two rounds of ITA rankings, currently boasting a dominating 28-2 overall singles record. Her only losses to date came in a three-setter to her own teammate, Danielle Lao, in the ITA Southwest Regional Championship match, and last week's three-set loss to Cal's #4 Jana Juricova, which snapped a 23-match win streak for Sanchez. Sanchez retained her #1 ranking with a powerful rebound performance, dishing out a straight-set win over Stanford's #2 Hilary Barte the next day to start a new win streak for the Trojan senior.
MORE FOR MARIA
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 #5 in the nation and are 21-2 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.
BACK ON THE ATTACK
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.