Women's Tennis
    USC Women Take Aim At ASU

    April 5, 2011

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    The No. 13 USC women head out of California again this week to extend their road run to three straight out-of-state matches with a journey to Arizona for an important Pac-10 collision. The Trojans (13-5, 2-3 Pac-10) will look for redemption against No. 15 Arizona State (13-5, 3-2) with a 1:30 p.m. MT match against the Sun Devils on Friday (April 8).

    The latest 2011 Campbell/ITA national team rankings were released April 5, with the Women of Troy ranked No. 13 in the nation. Individual rankings came out March 29, 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 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. And freshman Kaitlyn Christian holds strong at #104. In doubles, USC has the freshman-senior tandem of Christian and Sanchez now up to #5 after starting out the year at #80, and ITA Southwest Regional Doubles champs Valeria Pulido / Alison Ramos are listed at #21.

    The No. 15 Sun Devils are even with the Trojans at 13-5 overall and 3-2 in Pac-10 play after falling to Stanford 6-1 and to Cal 4-3 last week. ASU has four players ranked in singles (#11 Jacqueline Cako, #19 Kelcy McKenna, #106 Micaela Hein and #120 Hannah James) and two ranked doubles teams (#18 McKenna/Hein and #70 Brown/Simmons). USC is 43-21 overall against ASU after taking a tight 4-3 loss to the Sun Devils earlier this season. USC swept the doubles point in that one and got singles wins from Maria Sanchez over McKenna and from Lyndsay Kinstler over Ashlee Brown. USC lost 4-3 and won 5-2 in last year's competition with the Sun Devils.

    USC took its first trip out of state for dual match play last week witha trip to Oregon and Washington State. The Trojans served up a 7-0 sweep of the Ducks and then posted a 6-1 win over the Cougars to remain undefeated against both programs. Five Trojans won both their singles matches on the trip, led by Maria Sanchez' push to her 30th singles win of the season. Danielle Lao, Kaitlyn Christian, Alison Ramos and Cristala Andrews also picked up a pair of wins. Meanwhile, Andrews and Ramos stayed undefeated together in doubles action with two more wins on the trip for an 8-0 mark as a team, and Christian/Sanchez bulked up their win streak together to five straight.

    Maria Sanchez just busted her way out of the group with 30 singles wins on the season, but two Trojans are still standing strong in the 20-win column for the Trojans. USC sophomore Danielle Lao notched her 20th win of the season on March 12 at Pepperdine and now holds a 22-11 overall record, and freshman Kaitlyn Christian hit 20 against Syracuse on March 15 to now sit at 23-8 overall. She and Sanchez have also joined the club as a doubles duo with a 23-2 mark thanks to five straight wins that include two upset wins vs. Cal and Stanford, while two Trojan tandems are closing the gap with 18-8 records held by Valeria Pulido / Alison Ramos and Lyndsay Kinstler / Danielle Lao.

    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 --- becoming the first Trojan to win the ITA National Indoor Singles Championship since 1986. 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 30-2 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 a 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. She and fellow Trojan Steve Johnson are both ranked #1 in the nation, marking the first time in ITA ranking history that one school has boasted both the #1 male and #1 female player at the same time.

    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 23-2 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.