Danielle Lao sets up for her second NCAA Singles appearance.
May 24, 2011
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USC is 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. 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.
NCAA SINGLES BRACKET
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.
NCAA DOUBLES BRACKET
The USC women's tennis team 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. The No. 18 Trojans opened up against No. 42 Saint Mary's in the first round to vie for a second-round slot, and USC bounced back from dropping the doubles point to tack up a 4-1 win over the Gaels. Cristala Andrews opened the winning push with a shutout win at the No. 6 spot, and Danielle Lao got the Trojans ahead 2-1 with a win at No. 2. Valeria Pulido was next in the win column, and Alison Ramos clinched things from her No. 4 position to get USC a rematch with Cal in the Second Round. The No. 9 Bears opened up with a tight win in doublesand went up 2-0 with a straight-set singles win while the rest of the matches extended into tense three-setters. Lao won her third set in a tiebreak to notch a point for the Trojans, but Cal managed to pull out three-setters on courts four and six to secure the win for the hosts. That left a battle at thte No. 1 spot between Juricova and Sanchez suspended with a set apiece between the nation's top two singles stars. The team loss wrapped up the 2011 dual-match season for the Women of Troy for a final record of 15-8.
Ranked No. 18 in the nation, USC finished 2011 team play with a 15-8 overall record after a 4-4 finish in the Pac-10, which had six teams in the NCAA mix again this year. Six of USC's losses on the year came to top-10 teams and two were to tournament-bound Arizona State. With the 4-1 loss at Cal, the Trojans fell in the NCAA Second Round for the third straight season. Overall, this year's NCAA push marked USC's 29th appearance all-time, and the Trojans now hold a 59-28 all-time record in NCAA Tournament play to go along with seven national championships. The 1983 and 1985 crowns both were NCAA titles, as the NCAA began its women's tennis championships in 1982.
All the NCAA Championship competition at Stanford will have live scoring and video available. Go to www.gostanford.com to access the live updates.
CAMPBELL/ITA RANKING UPDATES
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.
THIS TIME LAST YEAR
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.
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
IN THEIR TWENTIES
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 25-12 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 27-4 mark thanks to a run of nine straight wins that included two upset wins vs. Cal and Stanford, while two Trojan tandems closed the gap with a 19-10 final mark held by Lyndsay Kinstler / Danielle Lao and an 18-9 record held by #31-ranked Valeria Pulido / Alison Ramos as they now enter NCAA doubles play.
SANCHEZ REIGNS SUPREME
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.
MORE FOR MARIA
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 27-4 overall.
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.