Women's Tennis
    No. 18 USC Women Go North For NCAA Action

    USC kicks off the 2011 NCAA Championships this weekend.

    May 10, 2011

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    The USC women's tennis team has locked in on its 20th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Women's Tennis Championships, taking a trip to Berkeley, Calif. for the 2011 NCAA First and Second Round this weekend. The No. 18 Trojans (14-7) open up against No. 42 Saint Mary's (13-9) in the first round to vie for a second-round slot against either No. 9 seeded and No. 9 ranked host California (16-6) or Boston University (12-8). USC's matchup with the Gaels is set for 9 a.m. on Saturday (May 14) with the second round match scheduled for 12 p.m. on Sunday (May 15). Two wins on the road in Berkeley would put the Women of Troy in the mix for the Round of 16 and beyond at the NCAA Championships in Palo Alto, Calif., beginning May 20 and running through May 24.

    Ranked No. 18 in the nation, USC holds a 14-7 overall record after a 4-4 finish in the Pac-10, which has six teams in the NCAA mix again this year. Five of USC's losses on the year came to top-10 teams and two were to tournament-bound Arizona State. The Trojans are looking to push back into the NCAA Round of 16 after taking Second Round losses in the last two years. Overall, this year's NCAA push marks USC's 29th appearance all-time, and the Trojans enter this year's tourney with a 58-27 all-time record in NCAA Tournament play and boast seven national championships. The 1983 and 1985 crowns both were NCAA titles, as the NCAA began its women's tennis championships in 1982. Individually, USC has five Women of Troy lined up for NCAA Singles and Doubles competition -- Maria Sanchez and Danielle Lao in singles, and Kaitlyn Christian / Sanchez and Valeria Pulido / Alison Ramos in doubles play.

    The NCAA First and Second Round matches this week in Berkeley, Calif., will have live scoring updates as well as live video available. Go to www.calbears.com to access the live updates.

    Saint Mary's (13-9) is making its second straight NCAA appearance and second all-time after securing an at-large berth this season. The Gaels fell in the 2010 NCAA First Round last year at Arizona State Ranked No. 42 in the nation as a team, the Gaels have two ranked singles players (#46-ranked WCC Player of the Year Alex Poorta and #80 Catherine Isip) and one ranked doubles team (#85 Isip/Poorta). This will be the first-ever meeting between USC and St. Mary's in dual match action.

    Boston University (12-8) has earned its 13th straight NCAA automatic berth after claiming the program's 18th consecutive America East championship. Last year, the Terriers fell to host Miami in the NCAA First Round. Unranked in the nation, BU has no ranked singles or doubles players. This is just the second meeting all-time between USC and Boston University, with the Trojans getting a 4-0 win over the Terriers in the 2007 NCAA First Round at Marks Stadium.

    Cal (16-6) is seeded ninth and hosting NCAA regional action once again, making their 30th NCAA appearance all-time. Last year, Cal hosted and defeated Southern 4-0 and USC 4-1 to advance to the Round of 16 in Athens, Ga., but was edged by Notre Dame 4-2 in that round. Ranked No. 9 in the nation as a team, the Bears have five ranked singles players (#1 Jana Juricova, #23 Mari Andersson, #55 Tayler Davis, #84 Annie Goransson and #104 Anett Schutting) and two ranked doubles teams (#1 Andersson/Juricova and #30 Goransson/Schutting). USC is a tight 31-29 all-time against Cal after one clash with the Bears this season when Cal got a 5-2 win over the Trojans during the teams' Pac-10 match in Los Angeles.

    USC will be well represented again in the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships, which kick off May 25 at Stanford's Taube Tennis Center. Making her third straight appearance in the NCAA Singles draw -- and scoring a high seed again for this year's journey -- is senior Maria Sanchez. She will be accompanied again by Women of Troy sophomore Danielle Lao in the NCAA women's singles draw. Currently ranked No. 2 in the nation after holding the top slot for several weeks this year, Sanchez is seeded No. 2 for 2011 and looking to improve on her NCAA Quarterfinal run last year after winning the ITA National Indoor Singles Championship and making a push to this year's Pac-10 singles and doubles finals. She takes a 35-4 overall singles mark into the USC women's 20th straight NCAA Championship appearance, which begins in Berkeley. As a sophomore, Sanchez made a trip to the NCAA Singles first round. Also making a repeat trip to NCAA individual action is Lao, who reached the NCAA Singles Round of 32 last year as a freshman and is lined up again to join the singles fray in 2011.

    The Women of Troy also have two doubles teams tagged for action in the NCAA Women's Doubles Championships. Freshman Kaitlyn Christian and sophomore Valeria Pulido will make their first career appearances in NCAA individual action as they pair up with their respective veterans. Christian and Sanchez join forces as the No. 3 seeded doubles pair in the bracket this year, as the duo are currently ranked No. 4 in the nation. Pulido and junior teammate Alison Ramos enjoy a No. 31 national ranking to lock in on the NCAA doubles field for the first time together. Ramos competed in last year's NCAA Singles competition, reaching the 2010 Round of 32 as a sophomore.

    The latest 2011 Campbell/ITA national team rankings were released May 2, with the Women of Troy ranked No. 18 in the nation. Individual rankings also came out May 2, 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 #24 in the land. And freshman Kaitlyn Christian holds strong at #103. In doubles, USC has the freshman-senior tandem of Christian and Sanchez ranked #4 after starting out the year at #80. ITA Southwest Regional Doubles champs Valeria Pulido / Alison Ramos are now listed at #31, and Cristala Andrews and Ramos are #77.

    USC was ranked No. 20 in the nation and was 13-9 overall entering last year's NCAA Tournament. The Trojans went 5-3 in Pac-10 competition in 2010, and traveled to Berkeley for the NCAA First and Second Rounds. There, the Women of Troy beat Sacramento State before falling to the No. 12 seeded host Bears to finish 2010 with a 14-10 overall record. Individually, the Trojans had a good group in the national rankings on the way into NCAA competition. Then a junior, Maria Sanchez was ranked #3 in the singles nation to lead the Women of Troy. #31 Alison Ramos was next on the list, followed closely by Trojan freshman #37 Danielle Lao, and fellow freshman Valeria Pulido at #112. In doubles, Pulido/Sanchez ranked #61, while Lao/Sanchez ranked #64 and Kinstler/Sanchez were ranked #81.

    PAC-10 POWER
    Maria Sanchez had a busy final day in Ojai, pulling double duty in two title matches at the Pac-10 Championships. The Trojan put up a fight in the singles championship bout, but fell to Stanford's Kristie Ahn. She then teamed back up with freshman Kaitlyn Christian to do battle against the top-ranked doubles team in the nation, pushing through three sets but coming up short of an upset to take the runner-up position in the doubles field as well. Sanchez came up against a tough customer in Stanford's seventh-seeded Kristie Ahn, who had dispatched Sanchez' Trojan teammate Christian 6-1, 6-0 in the quarterfinals. Top-seeded Sanchez fell behind Ahn 4-1 in the first set but fought back to make it a challenge before Ahn pulled out the first set 7-5. Ahn hit her stride in the second set, however, and created some distance between herself and Sanchez on the way to claiming the Pac-10 singles crown with a 7-5, 6-1 win over the Trojan senior. After a moment's rest, Sanchez got back to work on the doubles courts. Alongside teammate Kaitlyn Christian as the tournament's No. 2 seeded pair, the Trojans took on top-seeded Andersson/Juricova of Cal in the doubles final. It was all-out war between the two duos in the first set, but the Bears caught an edge late in a tense tiebreaker to claim the first set 7-6 with a 10-8 tiebreak. The Women of Troy responded with a 6-4 win in the second set, but the Bears regrouped again to round out the championship win for Cal in a 7-6 (8), 4-6, 6-1 final

    A look at the Trojans' runs at this year's Pac-10 Championships:
    Maria Sanchez -- reached singles championship match
    Kaitlyn Christian -- reached singles quarterfinals
    Cristala Andrews -- reached singles round of 32
    Lyndsay Kinstler -- reached singles invitational round of 16
    Alison Ramos -- reached singles invitational round of 16
    Christian/Sanchez -- reached doubles championship match
    Andrews/Ramos -- reached doubles quarterfinals
    Kinstler/Lao -- reached doubles invitational semifinals

    Maria Sanchez has busted her way out ahead of the pack with 35 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 26-8 overall. She and Sanchez have also joined the club as a doubles duo ranked #4 in the nation with a 27-3 mark thanks to a run of nine straight wins that included two upset wins vs. Cal and Stanford, while two Trojan tandems are closing the gap with a 19-10 mark held by Lyndsay Kinstler / Danielle Lao and an 18-9 record held by #31-ranked Valeria Pulido / Alison Ramos.

    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 35-4 overall singles record. Apart from the Pac-10 title match loss in Ojai to surprise champ Kristie Ahn of Stanford, her other 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 took over #1 following Sanchez' loss to ASU's Kelcy McKenna two weeks later. 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 #4 in the nation and are 27-3 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.