No. 12 USC Women Take On No. 3 UCLA In Westwood
The No. 12 USC women's tennis team sets up for its first look at rival UCLA since a tight loss to the Bruins in last year's NCAA Semifinals. The 9-2 Trojans, whose only losses in the last two years have been to top-10 teams, will pay a visit to No. 3 UCLA (9-1) this week with a Friday (March 8) trip across town to take on the Bruins at 1:30 p.m. in Westwood.
ITA RANKING UPDATES
: The latest round of 2013 Campbell/ITA national team rankings were unfurled on March 5, with the USC women ranked No. 12 in the land. USC was No. 4 from Jan. 3-Feb. 18 and No. 6 in the last cycle before taking a loss to No. 7 Cal that has dropped the Trojans out of the top-10. The latest individual rankings were releasted Feb. 26, with sophomore Sabrina Santamaria sliding from No. 1 in the nation in singles to No. 3 in the land. Senior Danielle Lao now stands at No. 7 to hold strong in the top-10. Sophomore Zoë Scandalis is currently No. 26, followed by fellow sophomores No. 84 Gabriella DeSimone and No. 99 Giuliana Olmos. In doubles, USC's top guns Santamaria and Kaitlyn Christian continue to regin supreme as the nation's No. 1 team. USC also has No. 26 DeSimone/Scandalis and No. 33 Lao/Pulido locked in the national doubles rankings.
: USC found its winning touch last week in a road victory at No. 49 San Diego. The Women of Troy wrapped up the doubles point with authority, sparked by a new pairing at No. 1, where Kaitlyn Christian and Danielle Lao shut out their opponents with an 8-0 sweep. Trojan newcomers Giuliana Olmos and Ellie Yates, meanwhile, took care of business on court three with an 8-2 decision that pocketed the first point of the day for USC. At the No. 2 spot, USC's #25 Gabriella DeSimone and Zoë Scandalis had their match suspended with the Trojans up solidly 6-1. USC's lift in singles came from senior Lao and freshman Yates, whose respective wins on courts one and five got the Trojans ahead 3-0 in the match. Playing in her first career dual match, USC's Jackie Owens came up on the losing end of her No. 6 singles match to surrender a point to the host Toreros. Two Women of Troy were closing in on the clincher, however. #84 DeSimone got to the finish line first. Her 6-2, 6-3 win on court two put the win in USC's hands, with the Trojans up 4-1 in the match. From the No. 5 position, #99 Olmos would shrug off a late move by her opponent Shani Blecher in order to bring home the next win for the Trojans. Olmos pulled out a tiebreaker win to decide the second set for a 6-2, 7-6 win that lifted USC ahead 5-1. Soon after that match was done, USC's Christian would retire from her No. 4 singles match down a set up leading 4-1 in the second, giving San Diego one last point to round out a 5-2 USC victory.
The No. 3 Bruins are 9-1 overall after a 4-3 win at Pepperdine last week. UCLA has six players ranked in singles: #2 Robin Anderson, #45 Kyle McPhillips, #63 Kaitlyn Ray, #68 Pamela Montez, #81 Chanelle Van Nguyen and #82 Catherine Harrison. In doubles, the Bruins have four ranked pairs: #7 Anderson/Morton, #18 McPhillips/Morton, #50 Anderson/Montez and #58 Dolehide/Montez. USC is 44-39 all-time against UCLA after going 1-3 against the Bruins last season. UCLA beat USC at the 2012 ITA National Team Indoors, then again in a nonconfernce match. The Trojans beat the Bruins 6-1 in Westwood to upset top-ranked UCLA on its home courts and earn a share of the Pac-12 title. UCLA had the last word on the year with a tight 4-3 win over USC in the 2012 NCAA Semifinals in Athen, Ga.
: 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 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 kept the senior undefeated in dual-match singles play. For her winning prowess, Lao picked up her first career selection as Pac-12 Player of the Week on Feb. 12. She's now ranked #7 in the land, holding a 17-4 overall singles record and a 10-1 mark in dual-match play.
: 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.
Freshman Ellie Yates won her sixth straight singles match to help get the Women of Troy back on a winning track with a 5-2 win at San Diego. For her winning efforts, Yates was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week for the first time in her young Trojan career on March 5. Yates' straight-set victory from the No. 5 spot got USC up 3-0 on the host Toreros over the weekend. In doubles, she combined forces with Giuliana Olmos to serve up the point-clinching win with their 8-2 decision from the No. 3 spot. Yates remains undefeated at 7-0 in dual-match singles play with her victorious effort in San Diego.
: 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 20-0 record together this season. Santamaria also spent a cycle atop the singles rankings from Feb. 12-25. She rides a 10-match singles win streak for a 19-3 overall record and 6-0 mark in dual-match play.
: 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.
The USC women are led by three All-Americans. Senior Danielle Lao entered her senior campaign leading the pack at No. 14 in the nation in singles, with two more Women of Troy also standing tall in the top-20 to start 2013. Sophomore Sabrina Santamaria --- who reached the ITA Southwest Regional singles final for the second straight year in the fall -- sat at No. 17, along with sophomore Zoë Scandalis at No. 19. Also in the singles rankings to start was another USC sophomore, Gabriella DeSimone, who held 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 opened 2013 with 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 were another two USC women's doubles pairs in the rankings. Sophomore combo Gabriella DeSimone and Zoë Scandalis ranked No. 13 in the land to start 2013, and ITA Southwest Regional champions Danielle Lao and Valeria Pulido --- the only seniors on the Trojan roster in 2013 -- stood at No. 40.
: 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.