The No. 14 USC women have their final regular-season dual match slated for their home courts of Marks Stadium. The Women of Troy (14-6, 4-3 Pac-10) go up against their crosstown rivals in a Pac-10 finale, hosting No. 6 UCLA (16-5, 6-1) at 3 p.m. on Friday (April 15). USC will also hold a ceremony that day to honor the induction of Trojan great Barbara Hallquist DeGroot into the ITA Women's Collegiate Hall of Fame.
ITA RANKING UPDATES
The latest 2011 Campbell/ITA national team rankings were released April 12, with the Women of Troy ranked No. 14 in the nation. Individual rankings also came out April 12, 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 now the nation's #2 singles player. ITA Southwest Regional Singles Champion Danielle Lao opened the year in the top-10 at #10 on the list and is now #21 in the land. And freshman Kaitlyn Christian holds strong at #124. In doubles, USC has the freshman-senior tandem of Christian and Sanchez still ranked #5 after starting out the year at #80. ITA Southwest Regional Doubles champs Valeria Pulido / Alison Ramos are now listed at #20, and Cristala Andrews and Ramos are #89.
The No. 6 Bruins are 16-5 overall and 6-1 in Pac-10 play after beating Arizona 7-0 and ASU 4-2 last week. UCLA has five players ranked in singles (#43 Noelle Hickey, #60 McCall Jones, #62 Andrea Remynse, #90 Courtney Dolehide and #99 Pamela Montez) and three ranked doubles teams (#16 Hickey/Jones, #17 Dolehide/Remynse and #52 Jones/Montez). USC is 42-34 all-time against the Bruins after falling 5-2 to UCLA in Westwood last month, with the Trojans winning the doubles point and Maria Sanchez getting a win at No. 1 over McCall Jones for USC's points in the match. Last season, UCLA managed 4-3 and 6-1 win over the Trojans. USC's last win was a 5-2 decision during the teams' Pac-10 clash in 2009, when the Trojans went on to win the Pac-10 Championship.
USC hit the road for the second weekend and came back with a split, falling 6-1 at ASU and getting a win by forfeit over Arizona last week. Against the Sun Devils, USC had Danielle Lao and Maria Sanchez pair up for the first time this year to take on ASU's #18 McKenna/Hein, but the Sun Devil pair was able to post an 8-2 win at the No. 1 position. That would be the only full doubles match played out, as USC defaulted at the No. 3 position due to injuries and ASU retired from its No. 2 match against USC's Cristala Andrews / Alison Ramos to bring up singles play. There, ASU moved ahead for the victory on wins at all spots except the No. 2 slot. There, USC's #26 Danielle Lao got ahead of ASU's #11 Jacqueline Cako before Cako retired from the match due to injury.
IN THEIR TWENTIES 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 23-11 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.
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 --- becoming the first Trojan to win the ITA National Indoor Singles Championship since 1986. While at #1 in the land, Sanchez recorded the highest ranking of her career and became 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.
In the past month, Maria Sanchez held the #1 rank for two cycles and is now #2 in the land. She currently holds a 30-3 overall singles record. Her only losses have been tight three-setters. The first was at the hands of her own teammate, Danielle Lao, in the ITA Southwest Regional Championship match. From there Sanchez went on a 23-match win streak before slipping to Cal's #4 Jana Juricova, who has now taken over #1 following Sanchez' loss to ASU's Kelcy McKenna last week. If history is any indicator, Sanchez has a rebound performance ahead. Following that loss to Juricova, 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. She and fellow Trojan Steve Johnson were both ranked #1 in the nation from March 13-April 11, 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.
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 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.
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.