USC women's tennis is sending the usual suspects back into the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships for the 2013 edition of individual postseason play. The Trojans have traded up, too, with sophomore Sabrina Santamaria snagging the No. 2 seed for singles as well as the No. 2 seed for doubles play with teammate Kaitlyn Christian. Senior Danielle Lao has scored a 9-16 seed into the singles scene for a repeat trip to the tourney, and Zoë Scandalis, too, is back in action with an at-large spot in the singles draw. NCAA individual action is set to run May 22-27 in Urbana, Ill.
For back-to-back Pac-12 doubles champs Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria, the No. 2 seed into the 2013 NCAA Doubles draw offers an opportunity for the pair to add another title to their laundry list of awards together. The winners of the last two ITA National Indoor Doubles championships and back-to-back Pac-12 Doubles Team of the Year honorees and champions, Christian/Santamaria are currently 32-1 overall and rank No. 2 in the nation. ITA All-Americans last season as the No. 4 seed into the 2012 NCAA Doubles tourney, the pair has locked in another set of All-American honors with this year's No. 2 seed and are the automatic qualifiers out of the Pac-12.
Sabrina Santamaria -- who was ranked as the nation's No. 1 singles player for a cycle of February ITA rankings holds an overall record of 30-4 to date. The Pac-12 Player of the Year, she's also tabbed as the automatic singles qualifier out of the Pac-12 as she stands ranked No. 2 in the nation entering NCAA action. Santamaria now has a solid set of four ITA All-American honors to her name, thanks to her run to the NCAA Singles Quarterfinals last season as a freshman. Making her fourth trip to the NCAA Singles competition in her four years as a Trojan is senior Danielle Lao, who was recently named the ITA Southwest Region Senior Player of the Year and to the All-Pac-12 First Team. An ITA All-American for the first time last year, Lao now has 2013 ITA All-American status as well with this year's pick as a 9-16 seed. The leader of the Women of Troy, who just capped off an undefeated Pac-12 season to win back-to-back conference crowns, Lao had the most dual-match singles wins (20) on the team and holds an overall singles record of 27-5 while standing as the nation's No. 9 ranked singles player. She climbed as high as No. 3 in the nation earlier this season. In her previous three NCAA Singles appearances, Lao has reached the Round of 32 each year as she now looks to break through for a deeper run at the tourney. Also making a return trip to NCAA action is sophomore Zoë Scandalis, a 2013 All-Pac-12 Second Team pick who reached the Round of 16 last season as a freshman and now also looks to better than run in 2013. A 2012 ITA All-American and the ITA National Player to Watch, Scandalis is currently ranked No. 27 in the nation in singles and is 20-8 overall in singles to date.
SINGLES FIRST ROUND - May 22
9 a.m. PT - [9-16] Danielle Lao (USC) vs. Breaunna Addison (Texas)
11:30 a.m. PT - Zoë Scandalis (USC) vs. Britney Sanders (Notre Dame)
3:30 p.m. PT -  Sabrina Santamaria (USC) vs. Nazari Urbina (Texas A&M)
DOUBLES FIRST ROUND - May 23
Time TBD -  Christian/Santamaria (USC) vs. Abu Mushrefova/Hamilton (Northwestern)
In its 22nd consecutive and 31st overall trip to the NCAA Tournament, the No. 5 seeded USC women's tennis team made back-to-back trips to the NCAA Round of 16, carrying a 15-match win streak into this year's edition before falling in a heartbreaker to No. 12 seed Stanford 4-3. The clash was a rematch of last year's Quarterfinals, where USC upset the Cardinal to advance to the 2012 semis.
Last season, the Women of Troy made their first NCAA Semifinal appearance since 2006 thanks to an impressive 4-2 upset of Stanford in the NCAA Round of 16 to set up the fourth USC-UCLA clash of the year. The Bruins captured the ticket to the final with a 4-3 win over the Trojans in the semis, putting USC with a 24-4 overall record in 2012. This year's NCAA appearance is USC's 22nd straight trip to the postseason and 31st overall, holding a 65-29 record in the tourney after the Trojans' wins in last weekend's NCAA First and Second Rounds. This year's No. 5 seed into the draw equals last season's seeding, which was the best since a No. 3 seeding in 2006. USC has won seven national championships in all, including NCAA championship titles in 1983 and 1985 after the NCAA began its women's tennis championships in 1982.
ITA RANKING UPDATES
The last set of 2013 Campbell/ITA national team rankings were unfurled on May 2, with the USC women ranked No. 5 in the land for the fifth straight cycle. USC was No. 4 from Jan. 3-Feb. 18 and was No. 6 in the next cycle before taking a loss to No. 7 Cal that dropped the Trojans out of the top-10 for just one week. The latest individual rankings were released May 2, with sophomore Sabrina Santamaria -- once ranked No. 1 in the nation in singles -- still locked at No. 2 in the land. Senior Danielle Lao stands at No. 9 to hold strong in the top-10. Sophomore Zoë Scandalis is currently No. 27, followed by fellow sophomore No. 79 Gabriella DeSimone. In doubles, USC's top guns Santamaria and Kaitlyn Christian remain undefeated, but have slipped down to No. 2 after having reigned supreme as the nation's No. 1 team all season long until the April 16 ranking cycle. USC also has No. 54 DeSimone/Scandalis and No. 81 Lao/Pulido locked in the national doubles rankings.
BACK-TO-BACK CONFERENCE CROWNS
Last season, USC finished atop the Pac-12 standings with a 9-1 record, falling only to Stanford in 2012. This year, the Trojans avenged that loss to the Cardinal with a powerful 6-1 win over Stanford last month. USC beat Cal and Stanford both that weekend to give those teams their only losses of the year, guaranteeing the Trojans at least a share of the 2013 Pac-12 Championship. To top it all off, USC would finish the regular season by pounding crosstown rival UCLA 6-1 for the second straight season in the teams' Pac-12 meeting, this time on the Trojans' home courts. The dominating win over the Bruins also secured the Women of Troy as the undefeated champions of the Pac-12 for 2013. The 6-1 win over No. 7 UCLA iced a perfect Pac-12 finish for the Trojans, who won 13 straight matches to close the regular season with a 21-2 overall record and that shining 10-0 Pac-12 finish. The victory also marked USC's first back-to-back wins over UCLA since the 2006 season.
DOUBLED UP IN OJAI
USC women's tennis has one of the most indisputably dynamic doubles duo on the scene. The Trojan tandem of Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria served up their 30th consecutive win of the season when they made it an undefeated run to their second straight Pac-12 Doubles Championship. The back-to-back champs locked in on another trophy in Ojai, Calif., with a 6-3, 6-3 win over UCLA's Dolehide/Montez in the title match. What's more, it was the second championship win in just hours for Kaitlyn Christian, who had captured the Pac-12 Singles Invitational Championship earlier in the day with a three-set victory over Stanford's Ellen Tsay. The hardware just keeps piling up for Christian and Santamaria, who already own back-to-back ITA National Indoor Championships together to go along with these back-to-back Pac-12 crowns. The pair carried a 26-match win streak together into the Pac-12 Championships. Once the pair eked out a tiebreaker win in the opening round of the draw, it was all business for the Women of Troy. Their Bruin opponents today in the title match could not keep up with the Trojan pair, who ripped ahead to keep their 2013 slate clean on a 6-3, 6-3 win to bring home another championship. Christian's busy day began on the singles courts, but she still had plenty left in the tank for doubles after her three-set match in the Pac-12 invitational singles title match. When her singles clash with No. 2 seeded Ellen Tsay of Stanford stretched into a third set, Christian stayed resolved and grabbed her first championship of the day on a 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 victory to bring her singles win streak out to 13 in a row.
TROJANS BY THE NUMBERS
As USC has successfully gathered in its second straight 20-win season, several Women of Troy are also hitting high marks in the individual win columns. Having held a 21-match win streak, Sabrina Santamaria leads the pack with a 30-4 overall singles record. Next is Pac-12 Invitational Singles champ Kaitlyn Christian (28-6), who finished her junior season on a 14-match win streak, and Danielle Lao (27-5) followed by two more 20-win club members: Gabriella DeSimone at 23-10 and Giuliana Olmos at 22-7. Other heavy hitters in the Trojan lineup are Zoë Scandalis at 20-8 and Ellie Yates (18-4). With USC's win over Oregon on April 14, the Trojans hit 20 teams wins for the third time in the past five seasons and 15th time overall. In doubles action, USC's big winners are the duo of Christian/Santamaria, who are 32-1 overall entering the NCAA Doubles Championships this week.
USC matched the most dominant start to a season in program history -- set in 1982 with five consecutive shutout wins -- when the Trojans dished out back-to-back 7-0 sweeps of opponents on Jan. 31 and Feb. 2. The 1982 Trojan team tallied 9-0 wins in its first five matches that year. In 2013, the USC women posted three 7-0 sweeps along with 6-0 and 4-0 decisions during the ITA Kick-Off Weekend to build up a hefty head of steam entering the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. There, the Trojans made a move into the quarterfinals with a 4-1 win over No. 12 Virginia. That broke up USC's stretch of shutout wins, and the Trojans would take their first loss of 2013 with a tight 4-3 defeat at the hands of No. 8 North Carolina. The Tar Heels would go on to win it all, taking the ITA Indoor title with a victory over UCLA in the final. USC, meanwhile, would find redemption in a solid 4-1 consolation match over No. 7 California, bringing USC's overall record to 7-1. At tournament's end, USC would land Danielle Lao on the ITA National Indoor All-Tournament Team for her strength at No. 1 singles, along with Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria on the team for No. 1 doubles.
D-LAO THE GIANT KILLER
A force to reckon with for the Trojans once again, senior Danielle Lao took down two top-10 opponents in singles play at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, opening the tournament with a bigtime upset of Virginia's #4 Julia Elbaba in straight sets. Ranked #10 in the nation at the time, Lao beat North Carolina's #28 Zoe De Bruycker in straight sets as well the next day, and then capped off the weekend with yet another straight-set upset in a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Cal's #7 Zsofi Susanyi to clinch USC's win over the Bears. In doubles, Lao went 2-1 with teammate Giuliana Olmos, including a clinching win over UNC's ranked pair. Lao's winning run kept the senior undefeated in dual-match singles play. She's now ranked #9 in the land, holding a 27-5 overall singles record after having gone 20-2 in dual-match play.
USC had a full lineup of Pac-12 Player of the Week recipients this season, led by three-time honoree Sabrina Santamaria. Santmaria picked up the first award of the year on Jan. 21, and Giuliana Olmos made it back-to-back honors with a win in the second week of action (Jan. 28). Joining the honor roll since then have been four more Women of Troy: Danielle Lao (Feb. 12), Ellie Yates (March 5), Zoë Scandalis (March 19), Gabriella DeSimone (April 2) and Kaitlyn Christian (April 23). With nine weekly awards won this season, the Trojans have totally dominated the Pac-12 honor roll, which dished out 14 such awards this year.
Two other women's doubles teams may have been able to win back-to-back ITA National Indoor Championships, but no one has done it as decisively as USC's Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria. In a morning title match in New York on Nov. 11, 2012, the two young Trojans successfully defended their 2011 championship with all-out domination of their opponents. A swift shutout crowned the two Women of Troy as the 2012 champs, making longtime friends Christian and Santamaria just the third team in history - and first since 1998 - to go back-to-back. In the title match, Christian and Santamaria rolled out an unheard-of 6-0, 6-0 shutout of Virginia's Nauta/Xi for a feat never before achieved in the final of the ITA National Indoors on either the women's or men's sides. The USC junior-sophomore combo hauled in four major titles together in just over one year as a Trojan tandem. Now with the back-to-back ITA National Team Indoor titles and back-to-back Pac-12 Doubles Championships in hand, Christian and Santamaria are also the proud owners of the 2012 ITA/ Riviera All-American Doubles Championship. Santamaria also spent a cycle atop the singles rankings from Feb. 12-25.
Last year, USC won a share of the Pac-12 Championship, finishing 8-1 in conference play before making a run to the NCAA Semifinals, thanks to a quarterfinal win over Stanford. The 24-4 finish for USC had the Trojans ranked No. 4 in the nation for USC's highest final ranking since 2006. At the Pac-12 Tournament, Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria won the Pac-12 Doubles Championship and would go on to earn the No. 4 seed into the NCAA Doubles Tournament. In the NCAA Singles Tournament, freshman Santamaria worked her way to All-American status with a run to the quarterfinals. She would finish the year with All-American honors for singles and doubles with Christian. Danielle Lao and Zoë Scandalis also earned All-American singles accolades. Scandalis was named the ITA National Player to Watch, and Christian and Santamaria were named to the ITA All-Star Team. In USC's first appearance in the NCAA Team Semifinals since 2006, the Trojans fell 4-3 to top-seeded rival UCLA. At the close of the tourney, Sabrina Santamaria earned NCAA All-Tournament Team honors at the No. 3 singles position, and Danielle Lao / Alison Ramos were also selected for the team at No. 3 doubles.