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No. 4 USC Women Open Season Wednesday
Wednesday, 01/16/2013
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Univ. of Southern California Team Page

The No. 4 USC women enter 2013 with their highest ranking of a new year since 2007, when the Trojans kicked off at No. 3 after a run to the 2006 NCAA semifinals. The 2012 NCAA semifinalists kick off the 2013 season at home with a dual-match clash against No. 68 UC Irvine at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday (Jan. 16) at Marks Stadium.

The first round of 2013 Campbell/ITA national team rankings were unfurled on Jan. 3, with the USC women currently ranked No. 4 in the land. Four Women of Troy are holding strong in the top-100 individual rankings (released Jan. 3), led by #14 Danielle Lao, who is followed by #17 Sabrina Santamaria, #19 Zoë Scandalis and #56 Gabriella DeSimone. In doubles, USC has back-to-back ITA National Indoor Doubles champs Kaitlyn Christian and Santamaria standing tall at #1 in the nation, with DeSimone and Scandalis ranked #13 and 2012 ITA Southwest Regional Doubles champs Lao and Valeria Pulido at No. 40.

The No. 68 Anteaters are coming off a 16-8 season in 2012. USC is a perfect 25-0 all-time against UC Irvine, including a 7-0 win over the Anteaters in last year's season opener for the Trojans. UCI has no players in the ITA national rankings to start the 2012 season.

The No. 4 USC women are led by three All-Americans. Senior Danielle Lao leads the pack at No. 14 in the nation in singles, with two more Women of Troy also standing tall in the top-20. Sophomore Sabrina Santamaria --- who reached the ITA Southwest Regional singles final for the second straight year in the fall -- sits at No. 17, along with sophomore Zoë Scandalis at No. 19. Also in the singles rankings is another USC sophomore, Gabriella DeSimone, who has her first career ITA ranking at No. 56 after her strong fall performance following up some big wins for the Trojans during the 2012 NCAA tournament.

The Women of Troy have a complete set of doubles tandems in the rankings. USC's vaunted junior-sophomore duo of Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria remain locked in as the nation's No. 1 team. The winners of back-to-back ITA National Indoor doubles championships as well as the 2012 Pac-12 doubles title and the 2012 ITA/Riviera All-American champs, Christian/Santamaria are clearly the team to beat in 2013. That won't be easy, however, as they proved with a resounding 6-0, 6-0 shutout of their opponents in the title match of the ITA National Indoors, where the Trojans became the first team since 1998 to win back-to-back doubles crowns at the event. Packing even more punch into the lineup for 2013 are another two USC women's doubles pairs in the rankings. Sophomore combo Gabriella DeSimone and Zoë Scandalis rank at No. 13 in the land, and ITA Southwest Regional champions Danielle Lao and Valeria Pulido --- the only seniors on the Trojan roster in 2013 -- stand at No. 40.

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 defend 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 now boasts four major titles together in just over one year as a Trojan tandem. Now with the back-to-back ITA National Team Indoor titles in hand, Christian and Santamaria are also the proud owners of the 2012 Pac-12 Doubles Championship and the 2012 ITA/ Riviera All-American Doubles Championship.

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 Sabrina 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.