No. 6 USC Women Host San Diego State Wednesday, Then Visit Cal
Now reacclimated to the Pacific Time Zone after a stint back East, the No. 6 USC women's tennis team has two matches set for this week. The Trojans (7-1) will first host San Diego State (3-2) in a 1:30 p.m. match on Wednesday (Feb. 20) at Marks Stadium. Then USC hits the road to Berkeley for a rematch against No. 7 California (3-2) in a noon showdown against the Bears on Saturday (Feb. 23).
ITA RANKING UPDATES
The latest round of 2013 Campbell/ITA national team rankings were unfurled on Feb. 19, with the USC women ranked No. 6 in the land. USC was No. 4 from Jan. 3-Feb. 18. In addition to reigning supreme as a member of the undefeated No. 1 doubles team in the nation with teammate Kaitlyn Christian, USC sophomore Sabrina Santamaria has also jumped up to stand tied at No. 1 in singles play as well in individual rankings released Feb. 12. Just a step behind her at No. 3 is USC senior Danielle Lao, who has made the climb up from No. 10 in the last round of rankings. Also standing tall in the singles rankings are No. 23 Zoë Scandalis, No. 60 Gabriella DeSimone and No. 81 Giuliana Olmos. In doubles, top guns Christian/Santamaria are backed up by No. 25 DeSimone/Scandalis and No. 68 Lao/Pulido.
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.
The Aztecs are 3-2 overall after a 4-3 loss to Long Beach State last week. SDSU has no players ranked in singles or doubles. USC is 39-4 all-time against San Diego State with a 7-0 Trojan win in their last meeting in 2011 at Marks Stadium.
The No. 7 Bears are 3-2 overall after beating Michigan 4-0 and falling 4-1 to both Georgia and USC at the ITA National Indoor Championships. Cal has Zsofi Susanyi tied at No. 1 in the nation in singles alonside USC's own Sabrina Santamaria. The Bears also have #12 Anett Schutting, #66 Lynn Chi and #113 Klara Fabikova ranked in singles. In doubles, Cal has #227 Chi/Schutting, #31 Fabikova/Susanyi and #52 Goransson/Schutting. USC is 34-30 all-time against the Bears after its 4-1 win over Cal on Feb. 10 at the ITA National Team Indoors.
D-LAO THE GIANT KILLER
A force to reckon with for the Trojans at the top of the lineup, 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 keeps the senior undefeated in dual-match singles play and with a 15-3 overall record in singles this season. For her winning prowess, Lao picked up her first career selection as Pac-12 Player of the Week on Feb. 12.
Finally hosting the event after two seasons on the road for ITA Kick-Off Weekend, USC settled in at Marks Stadium for two solid sweeps to punch the Trojans' second straight ticket to the ITA National Indoor Championships. The Women of Troy first topped Akron 6-0, then silenced No. 67 UC Irvine with a 4-0 win in USC's second meeting against the Anteaters in 11 days. Rainy days called for adjustments to the scheduling, as USC played out its match with Akron on three courts. Kaitlyn Christian would come up with the clincher with her smooth 6-1, 6-0 victory at the No. 4 position, and USC would go on to compete the straight-set sweep for a 6-0 win, with doubles unplayed. The next day, skies were clear enough to play doubles first, and USC powered through to the first point in 32 minutes against UC Irvine. With the Trojans later up 3-0, USC's Danielle Lao and Zoë Scandalis were neck-and-neck en route to the clinching win. Lao got it done first, and wrapped up the 4-0 win for USC to put the Trojans through to the Indoors.
USC captured the first two Pac-12 Player of the Week picks of 2013 with back-to-back honors going to Sabrina Santamaria and Giuliana Olmos. Santamaria secured her first career weekly award on Jan. 21 with her winning run to both the singles and doubles titles at the Freeman Memorial Tennis Championship. A week later, Olmos was playing in her first ITA Kick-Off Weekend and dominated her opponents to pick up her first career honor and USC's second straight Pac-12 Player of the Week win of 2013.
USC sophomore Sabrina Santamaria pulled some seriously successful double duty in Las Vegas, drumming up the singles and doubles titles at the Freeman Memorial Tennis Championship to also work her way to her first career honors as Pac-12 Player of the Week. Santamaria started the day by pairing up with her trusty doubles partner Kaitlyn Christian, and the nation's top doubles team slated two more opponents to win in the semis and final today to claim another championship. Later in the day, Santamaria struck out on her own and shocked the No. 2 seeded and #11 ranked Gina Suarez-Malaguti of UNC with a smooth 6-0, 6-1 victory in the singles championship. Christian and Santamaria started the day off right, beating a UCLA pair with an 8-4 semifinal victory over No. 3 seeded Bruins Dolehide/Montez to earn that trip to the title match. At the other side of the bracket, USC's Danielle Lao and Valeria Pulido were also in a semifinal battle, but took an 8-2 loss to UNC's No. 2 seeded Dai/Kay. Christian/Santamaria would avenge that loss by their teammates with an 8-4 win over Dai/Kay in the final to ring up the Trojan duo's first title of the spring. Meanwhile, in more Trojan competition taking place at the National Collegiate Tennis Classic in Palm Spring, Calif., USC was well represented in title matches there, too. Playing in her first season of action as a Trojan, USC's Giuliana Olmos made it to the singles final and took UCLA's #6 Robin Anderson to three sets before falling in the third-set tiebreaker. Anderson was also a winner on the doubles courts, as she and teammate Morton combined forces as the #16 team to beat out USC's #13 pair Gabriella DeSimone and Zoë Scandalis 8-6 in the doubles championship match.
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. Christian/Santamaria currently hold a perfect 18-0 record together this season.
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.