Women's Tennis
    Women of Troy Gear Up For NCAA Action In Georgia

    The USC women are ready to make their mark in Athens.

    May 15, 2012

    USC Women's Tennis NCAA NotesGet Acrobat Reader



    The USC women's tennis team is making its first appearance in the Round of 16 action at the NCAA Championships since 2008 after a powerful run through the NCAA First and Second Rounds last week. The No. 5 seeded Women of Troy (22-3) open up their journey in Athens, Ga., with an NCAA Round of 16 clash with No. 12 seed Baylor (25-7) at 12 p.m. ET. The action at Georgia's Dan Magill Tennis Complex continues with the women's quarterfinals on May 19. Women's and men's team semifinals are set for May 21, and the NCAA championship matches will be held May 22.

    Overall, this year's NCAA agenda marks USC's 30th appearance all-time, as the Trojans enter their 21st consecutive NCAA appearance with with a 61-28 all-time record in NCAA Tournament play after opening round wins last week. USC has won seven national championships in all, including NCAA champion titles in 1983 and 1985 after the NCAA began its women's tennis championships in 1982. The last time USC entered the NCAA Tournament as a top-five seed was in 2006, when the then-second-ranked Women of Troy picked up the No. 3 seed into the 2006 tourney. USC would advance to the NCAA Semifinals that year, falling to Miami 4-1 in a rain-interrupted semifinal clash in Palo Alto that left USC with a 21-4 overall finish.

    Ranked No. 4 in the nation, the 22-3 Trojans have served up five wins over top-10 teams this season, including a 6-1 upset of top-ranked UCLA to lock in USC as 2012 Pac-12 Team Champions. With a decorated load of talent this year, the Women of Troy have convincingly shaken off second-round losses from the past three seasons to get back to the NCAA Round of 16 and beyond -- held this year in Athens, Ga. The USC women beat Fairfield 4-0 and Vanderbilt 4-1 at Marks Stadium in last week's opening rounds, with Kaitlyn Christian clinching both matches from her No. 4 singles spot. After taking a share of the conference title with a 9-1 finish in Pac-12 play, the Trojans also made their voices heard in individual action. USC's young guns Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria -- winners of the 2011 ITA National Indoor Doubles Championship -- added another big trophy to their collection in their first year together by upsetting the top seeds in the Pac-12 Doubles Championship to lay claim to the conference doubles title. The 2012 Trojans have just one senior on the roster in Alison Ramos, whose power in singles and doubles has paired well with her younger teammates. In all, USC's lineup includes two top-20 singles players -- freshman Zoë Scandalis and junior Danielle Lao -- and a full set of decorated talent in ITA Southwest Regional Singles Champion Sabrina Santamaria, her sophomore doubles power Kaitlyn Christian and 2012 Pac-12 Invitational Singles finalist Gabriella DeSimone and winner Valeria Pulido.

    In NCAA singles action to come, there are three Women of Troy lined up to compete in the 2012 NCAA Singles draw. Freshman Zoë Scandalis -- ranked #14 in the nation -- has picked up a 9-16 seeding for the competition in her first season with the Trojans, and fellow freshman Sabrina Santamaria will also make her debut in postseason singles for USC. Santamaria stands at #26 in the current national rankings. Now a veteran of NCAA action, Danielle Lao is making her third run at NCAA Singles play after reaching the Round of 32 in the past two seasons. This year she'll enter the mix as the nation's #19 ranked player.

    USC's Pac-12 Doubles Champions Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria have claimed the No. 4 seed into the NCAA Doubles draw. The Trojan tandem ranks #3 in the nation although they just knocked off Stanford's #2 team Burdette/Gibbs last week at the conference championship tournament. Christian/Santamaria also boast national honors as the 2011 ITA National Indoors Doubles Champions from earlier this season. This will be Christian's second run at the NCAA Doubles Championships, having been seeded No. 3 last year with teammate Maria Sanchez and making an impressive run to the 2011 NCAA Semifinals.

    The latest round of 2012 Campbell/ITA national team rankings were unfurled on April 30, 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, and has been a mainstay in that group ever since. Four Women of Troy are holding strong in the top-100 individual rankings (released April 30), led by #14 Zoë Scandalis, who is followed by #19 Danielle Lao, #26 Sabrina Santamaria and #89 Kaitlyn Christian. In doubles, USC has Christian/Santamaria at #3, with Valeria Pulido and Scandalis ranked #49, and Lao and Alison Ramos at #75.

    USC was ranked No. 18 in the nation and was 14-7 overall entering last year's NCAA Tournament. The Trojans had gone 4-4 in Pac-10 play in 2011, and traveled to Berkeley for the NCAA First and Second Rounds. There, the Women of Troy beat Saint Mary's 4-1 before falling to the No. 9 seeded host Bears 4-1 to finish 2011 with a 15-8 overall record. Individually, USC had three Trojans ranked in singles and three ranked doubles teams. Maria Sanchez led the pack as the reigning National Indoor Singles Champion and then the nation's #2 singles player. 2010 ITA Regional Singles Champion Danielle Lao was #24 in the land, and freshman Kaitlyn Christian held strong at #103. In doubles, USC had 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 were listed at #31, and Cristala Andrews and Ramos were #77.

    The USC women knocked off the nation's top team in their final regular-season match, and to make the win ever sweeter, that team happened to be crosstown rival UCLA. The Trojans and the top-ranked Bruins were tangling for the third time this season in the matchup at UCLA's Los Angeles Tennis Center, but it was USC that came out on top with the upset win to snap a stretch of six straight losses to the rival Bruins. USC's 6-1 win over No. 1 UCLA also secured a share of the Pac-12 Championship for the Women of Troy. USC last claimed a conference title in 2009 --- also the last time the Trojans had beaten the Bruins. Overall, USC's 2012 Pac-12 Championship -- shared with Stanford -- is the Trojans' 11th conference title.

    PAC-12 POWER
    USC's young-gun doubles tandem of sophomore Kaitlyn Christian and freshman Sabrina Santamaria conspired for an impressive upset of the tournament's top seeds to win the 2012 Pac-12 Doubles Championship in Ojai, Calif. No. 3 seed Christian/Santamaria took down Stanford's top-seeded and #2-ranked Burdette/Gibbs with a solid 6-4, 6-4 win to take the Pac-12 trophy. Christian and Santamaria follow in the footsteps of USC's most recent conference doubles champions Amanda Fink and Gabriella Niculescu, who won back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009. For Christian, the win was a welcome upgrade from last year's runner-up finish as a freshman in the doubles final. Together, Christian and Santamaria have captured USC's fourth Pac-12 Doubles Championship in program history. Meanwhile, on the invitational side of the singles play in Ojai, junior Valeria Pulido won her 14th straight singles match in claiming the Pac-12 Invitational Singles Championship with her 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 comeback effort against freshman teammate Gabriella DeSimone. DeSimone had not given up a single set during her run through the Pac-12 Invitational draw until Pulido stole that second set in today's title match. The Trojan junior would hold on in the third and battle out a 7-5 win to capture the invitational crown.

    A look at the Trojans' runs at the Pac-12 Championships:
    Zoë Scandalis -- reached singles quarterfinals
    Danielle Lao -- reached singles Round of 16
    Sabrina Santamaria -- reached singles Round of 16
    Kaitlyn Christian -- reached singles Round of 32
    Valeria Pulido -- won invitational singles championship
    Gabriella DeSimone -- reached invitational singles final
    Alison Ramos -- reached invitational singles Round of 16
    Christian/Santamaria -- won doubles championship
    Pulido/Scandalis -- reached doubles semifinals
    Lao/Ramos -- reached doubles quarterfinals

    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 a 7-0 sweep of Oregon on March 30. Gallien entered 2012 with a 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 22-3 overall record, standing as Pac-12 Champion and holding strong as the No. 4 team in the nation, Gallien has upped his count to 307 wins as head coach at USC.

    Freshmen Zoë Scandalis and Sabrina Santamaria were the first Trojans to bust out of the 20-win group so far. Playing at the competitive No. 1 singles slot, Scandalis is now 33-11 overall and 13-7 in dual matches. Santamaria just recently hit 30 herself, now 32-7 overall and with a near-perfect 20-2 dual-match record primarily picked up on court three. The group's newest member is sophomore Kaitlyn Christian (30-8, 22-3), who hit 30 with two clinchers in the NCAA opening rounds. The rest of the 20-win pack is also strong, comprised of junior Danielle Lao (29-6, 19-2) and freshman Gabriella DeSimone (25-11, 16-6). Sitting on the cusp is senior Alison Ramos (18-12, 13-4) and the streaking junior Valeria Pulido (16-5, 10-0), who boasts a 15-match singles win streak. In the doubles realm, the youthful National Indoor and Pac-12 Doubles champions Christian/Santamaria combo is ahead of the pack at 31-11 overall (12-8 dual), while Lao/Ramos clock in at 21-6 (16-4 dual). Pulido/Scandalis are knock on the door of the 20-win club at 19-8 (17-5 dual).

    USC has landed four different Women of Troy on the honor roll as Pac-12 Players of the Week this season. Freshman Zoë Scandalis did it first on Jan. 28 after following up the Freeman Memorial Singles Championship with a 6-0, 6-0 singles sweep and a solid doubles win in her first dual match at USC. A week later, sophomore Kaitlyn Christian cruised to singles and doubles wins in USC dual-match victories over Saint Mary's and Pepperdine. On Feb. 27, freshman Gabriella DeSimone put her name on the conference list after her three-set comeback win in singles clinched a win over UC Santa Barbara, and then her win on court six against No. 5 Cal clinched USC's first win over the Bears in six tries. USC's most recent recipient of the Pac-12's weekly award was junior Valeria Pulido, who kept her perfect dual-match record intact by providing the clinching win for USC over top-ranked UCLA and thus securing the share of the Pac-12 Team Championship for the Trojans.

    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 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.