Women's Tennis
    USC Women Wind Up for Pac-10 Championships

    April 27, 2011

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    With the regular season wrapped up, the USC women shift their focus to individual action this week as the battles for Pac-10 singles and doubles championships go up for grabs. The 2011 Pac-10 Championships are held, as always, in Ojai, Calif., with a full plate of tennis running rampant from April 28-May 1.


    The latest 2011 Campbell/ITA national team rankings were released April 26, with the Women of Troy ranked No. 17 in the nation. Individual rankings also came out April 26, with three Trojans ranked in singles and three 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 #23 in the land. And freshman Kaitlyn Christian holds strong at #99. In doubles, USC has the freshman-senior tandem of Christian and Sanchez ranked #5 after starting out the year at #80. ITA Southwest Regional Doubles champs Valeria Pulido / Alison Ramos are now listed at #29, and Cristala Andrews and Ramos are #77.

    PAC-10 PLAN
    USC has six players heading out to Ojai this week for Pac-10 action. Making her first appearance in the Pac-10 Championships since her freshman season is senior Maria Sanchez, who is the top seed in the Championship singles draw. Her fellow senior Cristala Andrews is also entered into singles competiion along with USC freshman Kaitlyn Christian as the Trojans start up singles on Thursday (April 28). In the Invitational singles bracket, USC has three more Women of Troy in the mix. Senior Lyndsay Kinstler and junior Alison Ramos both have first-round byes into the Round of 16, and freshman Hayley Miller will kick off in the Round of 32. In the doubles scene, USC has two pairs loaded up for Championships doubles. The freshman-Senior combo of Christian/Sanchez have the No. 2 seed in the bracket, and are joined by the Trojan pair of Andrews/Ramos for the opening rounds on Friday (April 30).

    A look at the returning Trojans' runs at last year's Pac-10 Championships:
    Cristala Andrews -- reached singles invitational quarterfinals
    Lyndsay Kinstler -- reached singles invitational round of 16
    Valeria Pulido -- competed in singles first round
    Alison Ramos -- reached singles round of 16
    Lao/Ramos -- reached doubles quarterfinals
    Andrews/Pulido -- reached doubles invitational quarterfinals

    The No. 17 USC women (14-7) will learn their NCAA future on May 3 when the NCAA Tournament selections and seedings are announced online at ncaa.com. The show is set to start at 2 p.m. PT. The Women of Troy are looking to make their 20th straight NCAA appearance and 29th appearance all-time. After reaching the 2010 NCAA Second Round last season, USC now holds a 58-27 all-time record in NCAA Tournament play and boasts seven national championships. The 1983 and 1985 crowns both were NCAA titles, as the NCAA began its women's tennis championships in 1982.

    Maria Sanchez has busted her way out of the group with 31 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 23-12 overall record, and freshman Kaitlyn Christian hit 20 against Syracuse on March 15 and now sits at 24-8 overall. She and Sanchez have also joined the club as a doubles duo ranked #5 in the nation with a 24-2 mark thanks to six straight wins that include two upset wins vs. Cal and Stanford, while two Trojan tandems are closing the gap with 18-9 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 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.

    This year, Maria Sanchez held the #1 rank for three cycles and is now #2 in the nation. She currently holds a 31-3 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. Following the 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.

    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 24-2 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.