Women's Tennis
    No. 4 USC Women Take Another Shot At No. 1 UCLA

    The USC women unite in Westwood on Friday to do battle with the Bruins.

    April 18, 2012

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    The No. 4 USC women are within reach of at least a share of the Pac-12 Championship this week when the Trojans wrap up the regular season with a trip to Westwood. USC (19-3, 6-1 Pac-12) go up against the top-ranked Bruins (21-1, 8-1) for the third time this season, focused on serving up a timely upset of its rivals to drum up some bragging right and extra postseason momentum. USC has its crosstown showdown set for 3 p.m. on Friday (April 20) at UCLA's Los Angeles Tennis Center.

    The latest round of 2012 Campbell/ITA national team rankings were unfurled on April 17, with the USC women currently ranked No. 4 in the land. From Feb. 28 to March 5, USC sat at No. 2 in the nation to carry their highest ranking since 2006. USC first cracked the top-10 this year on Feb. 16. Four Women of Troy are holding strong in the top-100 individual rankings (released April 17), led by #18 Danielle Lao, who is followed by #20 Zoë Scandalis, #29 Sabrina Santamaria and #75 Kaitlyn Christian. In doubles, USC has Christian/Santamaria at #7, with Valeria Pulido and Scandalis ranked #49.

    USC had its nine-match win streak interrupted by a 4-2 rain-abbreviated loss to No. 6 Stanford last week, but the Trojans had a solid response to the rare loss, answering back with an impressive 4-3 road win over No. 10 California. The Bears had dealt UCLA its first loss of the year the previous day, but the Trojans were ready. Sabrina Santamaria secured singles wins in both matches for the Trojans, and USC was solid in the No. 6 spot on both days as well. Against Stanford, senior Alison Ramos rebounded from a first-set loss to win her match on court six to end the day on a bright note for the Trojans. Against Cal, Valeria Pulido stepped into the No. 6 spot and got the match-clinching win for the Trojans as they lost the doubles point but received crucial singles wins from Santamaria, Pulido, Danielle Lao and Kaitlyn Christian to lace up the big Pac-12 road win over the Bears. The one-two punch of Ramos and Pulido has combined for an undefeated 9-0 mark for the Trojans at the No. 6 singles position this year.

    The No. 1 Bruins are 21-1 overall and 8-1 in Pac-12 play after losing 4-3 to Cal and beating Stanford 5-2 last week. UCLA has six players nationally ranked in singles: #3 Robin Anderson, #96 McCall Jones, #107 Skylar Morton, #109 Pamela Montez, #110 Chanelle Van Nguyen and #118 Kaitlyn Ray. In doubles, UCLA has #9 Anderson/Morton and #11 Dolehide/Montez. USC is 43-38 all-time against UCLA with losses in the last six meetings. Earlier this year, the Bruins claimed a 4-0 win over the Trojans in the semifinals of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships and also got a 4-3 win over USC on March 1 at Marks Stadium. USC's last win over UCLA was a 5-2 decision in the teams' Pac-10 matchup in 2009 at USC.

    USC head coach Richard Gallien collected his 300th overall career win last season, and now he has his 300th win with the Women of Troy in the books thanks to USC's 7-0 sweep of Oregon on March 30. Gallien entered the 2012 campaign with USC record of 285-125 (not including matches later vacated per NCAA penalty issued in 2009 due to ineligible player). Now with his Women of Troy gripping a 19-3 overall record and sitting as the No. 4 team in the nation, Gallien has upped his count to 304 wins as head coach at USC.

    Freshmen Zoë Scandalis and Sabrina Santamaria are the first Trojans to bust out of the 20-win group so far. Playing at the competitive No. 1 singles slot, Scandalis is now 30-10 overall and 12-7 in dual matches. Santamaria just hit 30 herself, now 30-5 overall and with a near-perfect 19-1 dual-match record primarily picked up on court three.The rest of the 20-win pack is now three-women strong, comprised of sophomore Kaitlyn Christian (27-7, 19-3 dual), junior Danielle Lao (26-5, 17-2) and freshman Gabriella DeSimone (20-9, 15-5). In the doubles realm, the youthful Christian/Santamaria combo are ahead of the pack at 24-11 overall (9-8 dual), with Pulido/Scandalis knocking on the door of the 20-win club at 18-5 (17-3 dual) and Lao/Ramos close behind at 17-5 (15-4 dual).

    Freshman Gabriella DeSimone secured her first career Pac-12 Player of the Week award on Feb. 27 after serving up two match-clinching singles wins, including a winner in the Trojans' upset victory over No. 5 California to snap a five-match losing skid for USC against the Bears. DeSimone opened the week with an impressive three-set comeback win that clinched an eventual 7-0 USC win over UC Santa Barbara. DeSimone bounced back from a first-set loss to Paola Cos with a dominating effort in the next two sets, including a shutout in the third for a 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 victory. Two days later, DeSimone held strong against her ranked Cal opponent, #103 Cecilia Estlander, to register another big clincher in a 7-5, 6-2 win that put the Trojans ahead 4-2 in the match. USC's eventual 4-3 decision over the Bears was the second upset win over a top-10 team for the Trojans this season. The winning week improved the No. 7 USC women to 9-1 overall -- USC's best start to a season since 2006. DeSimone is now 20-9 overall in singles and 15-5 in dual match play.

    For her efforts on both the singles and doubles courts in two Trojan shutout wins, Kaitlyn Christian earned her first career selection as Pac-12 Player of the Week on Feb. 6. Christian didn't lose a single set in singles that week, and also won out in doubles as USC topped #34 Saint Mary's and #27 Pepperdine with shutouts. Her singles wins from her No. 4 position were both dominating. #99 Christian beat Anna Chkhikvishili 6-2, 6-2 on Thursday, then blasted Arianna Colffer 6-1, 6-2 on Saturday. Teamed up in doubles with Sabrina Santamaria at the No. 1 position, the #3 pair served up 8-4 wins in both matches. Christian is currently 19-3 in dual-match singles now with a 27-7 overall record. In doubles with Santamaria, she holds a 24-11 overall record with a 9-8 dual-match record at the No. 1 position.

    Riding the momentum of an upset win over top-ranked Mallory Burdette of Stanford and #8 Robin Anderson of UCLA en route to the ensuing Freeman Memorial singles championship, #19-ranked freshman Zoë Scandalis stepped into the No. 1 singles slot for her first dual match as a Trojan and shut out her UC Irvine opponent. For her recent successes, Scandalis was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week on Jan. 28 making her the first Trojan to win the honor this season. Scandalis tallied the first doubles win and first singles win of the day in USC's season opener, winning 8-2 at the No. 3 doubles position with teammate Valeria Pulido, then took to the singles courts to deliver a 6-0, 6-0 sweep of UC Irvine's Courtney Byron on court one. Scandalis is now currently 30-10 overall in singles play and 12-7 at the No. 1 singles spot.

    The USC women reached the semifinals of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships for the first time since 2003 and third time overall with an impressive run at the action out in Charlottesville, Va. To open, USC gutted out its first win over a top-10 team since 2009 with a 4-2 comeback win over No. 8 North Carolina in the first round. After UNC sneaked away with the doubles point, USC buckled in for the long haul in singles, claiming three straight-set victories before junior Danielle Lao pinned up the heroic clincher with a three-setter from court two. In the quarterfinals, USC locked in on its best start since 1999 in claiming its seventh straight win of 2012 with a 4-1 comeback win over No. 17 Tennessee. The Vols were riding an upset of No. 5 Baylor from the previous day on the way into the quarterfinal clash with the Trojans, but again USC was undeterred when the doubles point slipped away from its grasp. Instead, USC answered the call and flexed its singles muscle with four straight-set wins to plow to a 4-1 win over the Vols, clinched this time by Gabriella DeSimone. In the semis, USC went up against No. 4-ranked rival UCLA and this time was unable to fight back from falling in the double point, as the Bruins claimed a 4-0 win over the Trojans on their way to winning it all with a sweep up top-seeded Duke in the title match.

    USC freshman Zoë Scandalis delivered an upset blow to the top-ranked player in the nation as she gutted out a 6-7 (8), 7-6 (5), 6-3 comeback win over Stanford's #1 Mallory Burdette to win it all at the Freeman Memorial in Las Vegas on Jan. 15. Also in title match action in Vegas was Trojan doubles pair Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria. The sophomore-freshman combination worked into today's doubles final at the Freeman Memorial with an 8-4 win over UCLA's Anderson/Morton. In the championship, the Trojan duo faced another Bruin combination in Montez/Dolehide. Christian/Santamaria were unable to pull out the win, however, taking an 8-4 loss to finish as runners-up in the doubles draw. That gave #3 Christian/Santamaria their second tournament title together, going along with the 2011 National Indoor Championship claimed in the fall.

    While USC's underclassmen were winning titles in Las Vegas, junior Danielle Lao won her first title since the 2010 ITA Southwest Singles Championship when she upset top-seeded and #29 ranked Emily Fraser of Virginia in a decisive second set in a 7-6 (5), 6-0 win. That claimed the singles crown at the National Collegiate Tennis Classic in La Quinta, Calif., on Jan. 15 for then-#42-ranked Lao. She's now USC's highest ranked player at #18 in the land, holding a 26-5 singles mark on the season with a powerful 17-2 stand in dual matches.

    USC's doubles duo of Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria topped off their historic run at the ITA National Indoor Championships by etching their names as champions with a comeback win in the doubles title match. The two Women of Troy were the first to reach a doubles final, and now stand as the first USC doubles team -- female or male -- to win the doubles crown at the tourney. Kelly Henry and Sue Pendo were the only other USC women's doubles team to reach the final back in 1984. The Trojans' resurgence to the title match saw sophomore Christian and freshman Santamaria serve upsets of the No. 2, No. 4 and finally the No. 3 seeded teams in the draw. In the championship clash with No. 3 seeded Frilling/Mathews of Notre Dame, the Women of Troy fell behind in the first set before rallying back to take the match and the title with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory at the USTA-Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Nov. 6.

    Freshman Sabrina Santamaria became the fourth straight Trojan to win the ITA Women's Regional Singles Championship with her winning run through the 2011 ITA Southwest Championship tourney in San Diego this fall. The Trojan went up against fellow freshman Zoë Scandalis in the title match, netting a 6-2, 6-1 win. Santamaria was unseeded entering the tourney, and served up surprises for four top-10 seeds during her run to the title. Scandalis was one of those seeded opponents, sitting as No. 10 and with a pair of victories over seeded opponents during her course to the final. One of those wins came in another all-Trojan battle, as Scandalis and defending champ, top-seeded teammate Danielle Lao, squared off in the quarterfinals. It was the third all-Trojan singles final in the past four regionals, as the Women of Troy have claimed the regional singles crown for four straight seasons now. Maria Sanchez won back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009 (beating teammate Alison Ramos in 2008); Danielle Lao won in 2010 (beating Sanchez); and now Sabrina Santamaria has claimed the 2011 title. USC missed out on the singles title in 2007, but got another championship from Sarah Fansler in 2006 and also a title from Amanda Fink in 2005 to make it six Trojan championships in the past seven seasons. Santamaria currently holds a 30-5 overall singles record with a near-perfect 19-1 mark in dual matches.

    PAC-12 PLAN
    There will be a 32-player women's singles draw and a 16-team women's doubles draw at the annual Pac-12 Tennis Tournament in Ojai, Calif. The draw will be determined no later than 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 24. Matches begin on Thursday (April 26) morning. All Pac-12 Tournament women's matches except the finals will be played at the Ojai Valley Athletic Club. The Pac-12 singles championship match is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. in Libbey Park, and the doubles final will follow. The Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament is a 112-year tradition, dating back to 1887. The four-day tennis extravaganza includes competition for juniors, non-Pac-12 collegiate players, and an open event. The Pac-12 has had a presence at the event since 1954.

    USC posted a 15-8 record and a 4-4 finish in Pac-10 play in 2011. The Trojans wound up the year ranked No. 19 in the final ITA team rankings after reaching the NCAA Second Round. In NCAA individual action, Kaitlyn Christian and Maria Sanchez made history with an appearance in the NCAA Doubles Semifinals, becoming the first Women of Troy team ever to reach the NCAA doubles semis. Both earned ITA All-American honors in 2011, with freshman Christian also named the ITA Southwest Region Player to Watch, and senior Sanchez the ITA National Senior Player of the Year to go along with her honor as the Pac-10 Player of the Year. Danielle Lao was named to the All-Pac-10 Second Team. Playing in the NCAA individual tournament were Christian (doubles), Lao (singles, Valeria Pulido (doubles), Alison Ramos (doubles) and Sanchez (singles and doubles). Final ITA rankings had Sanchez #3 in singles and #5 in doubles with Christian. Christian was #90 in singles, and Lao was #23 in singles. Pulido/Ramos were #28 in doubles.