No. 6 USC Women Streak Home For Clashes With Cal & Stanford
The No. 6 USC women's tennis team has won seven in a row since taking a road loss to California. This week, the Trojans look for redemption with a rematch against the Golden Bears -- this one on USC's home courts in a Pac-12 clash that can give the Trojans a big lift in conference play. No. 6 USC (15-2, 4-0 Pac-12) tangles with No. 13 California (10-4, 4-0) at 1:30 p.m. on Friday (March 29) at Marks Stadium. From there, the Trojans turn right around for another marquee matchup against another Pac-12 power, No. 14 Stanford. That one presents a rematch of the 2012 NCAA Quarterfinals, where the Women of Troy surprised the Cardinal with a 4-2 upset. Now, USC and Stanford (10-2, 4-0) are set to square off at 12 p.m. on Saturday (March 30) in this year's Pac-12 match.
ITA RANKING UPDATES
The last set of 2013 Campbell/ITA national team rankings were unfurled on March 26, with the USC women ranked No. 6 in the land. 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. The latest individual rankings were released March 26, with sophomore Sabrina Santamaria -- once ranked No. 1 in the nation in singles -- still locked at No. 2 in the land. Senior Danielle Lao now stands at No. 7 to hold strong in the top-10. Sophomore Zoë Scandalis is currently No. 27, followed by fellow sophomores No. 70 Gabriella DeSimone and No. 116 Giuliana Olmos. In doubles, USC's top guns Santamaria and Kaitlyn Christian continue to reign supreme as the nation's No. 1 team. USC also has No. 36 DeSimone/Scandalis and No. 44 Lao/Pulido locked in the national doubles rankings.
USC kept up its winning ways in Pac-12 play with a successful road trip last week. The Trojans would sweep through all but one match, where Gabriella DeSimone retired from her singles match due to injury. In a snowy afternoon in Seattle, the match was played indoors, but the Trojans still shined through with a 6-1 victory over No. 42 Washington to ring up another Pac-12 victory for the surging Trojans. Doubles play was all Trojans. #30 DeSimone/Scandalis got the ball rolling with an 8-4 win on court two, and top-ranked Christian/Santamaria brought it home with an 8-5 decision at the No. 1 spot. Lao/Olmos finished off their match on court three with a 7-1 tiebreaker, and USC was on to singles play with a 1-0 lead in-hand. USC's #67 Gabriella DeSimone had to retire from her No. 4 singles match, handing a point to the Huskies early. But her Women of Troy rallied from there. #107 Giuliana Olmos dished out a dominating 6-0 6-1 win from court five, and USC was off to the races. #8 Danielle Lao deposited a 6-2, 6-2 drubbing of Andjela Nemcevic at the No. 1 singles spot to put the Trojans within striking distance, and #2 Sabrina Santamaria closed the deal with her 6-3, 7-5 win at the No. 2 position. With the 4-1 lead and the win in hand, USC fought through two more victories before the end of the day. Kaitlyn Christian went to a 10-point tiebreaker to decide her match on court six, getting the job done to make it 5-1. At the No. 3 position, #27 Zoë Scandalis gutted out a tight third set, going the distance and ringing up the final win with her three-setter to make it a 6-1 USC win. The next day in Pullman, USC registered a 7-0 sweep of host No. 60 Washington State. The Trojans logged the doubles point when Lao/Olmos followed up #1 Christian/Santamaria's solid 8-2 win at the No. 1 spot with a tough 9-7 win on court two. That suspended play on court three, and the teams were off to singles play with USC leading 1-0. The Trojans locked in for singles action, which opened with a 6-0, 6-0 shutout win by USC's #2 Santamaria on court two. The top of the Trojan lineup continued to dominate, with #8 Lao winning next on a 6-1, 7-6 (4) win at the No. 1 spot. That got the Trojans a 3-0 lead, and Scandalis chugged her way to the clincher with a 6-4, 6-3 win at the No. 3 position. The finishing touches came from the bottom half of the USC ladder. #107 Olmos had slipped in a tiebreaker in her second set on court four, but she haled strong in her 10-point tiebreak to decide the match, winning 6-4, 6-7 (3), 1-0 (10-8) to make it a 5-0 USC advantage. Ellie Yates converted a straight-set win next from the No. 6 spot, winning 6-3, 6-0 before Christian topped her WSU opponent 7-5, 6-3 to chisel USC's ninth shutout win of the year in the books.
The No. 13 Golden Bears are 10-4 overall and 4-0 in Pac-12 play after sweeping Utah and Colorado both 7-0 last week. Cal has four players ranked nationally in singles: #4 Zsofi Susanyi, #6 Anett Schutting, #59 Lynn Chi and #80 Klara Fabikova. In doubles, Cal has #23 Fabikova/Susanyi and #25 Chi/Schutting. USC is 33-31 all-time against the Bears after a 5-2 loss in Berkeley last month. Last season, USC beat 4-3 in both meetings in 2012.
The No. 14 Cardinal is 10-2 overall and 4-0 in Pac-12 play after sweeping Colorado and Utah both 7-0 last week. Stanford has five players ranked nationally in singles: #14 Krista Hardebeck, #20 Nicole Gibbs, #30 Kristie Ahn, #51 Ellen Tsay and #93 Stacey Tan. In doubles, Stanford has #14 Ahn/Gibbs and #80 Tan/Tsay. USC is 19-60 all-time against the Cardinal. Last season, Stanford beat USC 4-2 during Pac-12 play, but the Trojans grabbed a 4-2 upset of the Cardinal in the 2012 NCAA Quarterfinals in Athens, 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 22-4 overall singles record and a 15-1 mark in dual-match play after her clinching win in USC's upset of UCLA last week.
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. The most recent Trojan to win the award is Zoë Scandalis, who was in full winning form in a busy week of three matches at USC. After holding her ground in a three-set singles win vs. Texas, Scandalis was near-perfect in her Pac-12 openers. She lost just one game in her two singles matches against Pac-12 players from Colorado and Utah. Scandalis was similarly powerful in doubles, combining forces with Gabriella DeSimone for three smooth wins to further spark the Trojans along to the three 7-0 sweeps of visiting teams last week. Scandalis has won six straight singles matches to stand 12-6 overall and 8-1 in dual-match play.
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. The winning weekend kept Yates undefeated at 7-0 in dual-match singles play. She is now 12-2 overall and 11-1 in dual-match play.
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 23-0 record together this season. Santamaria also spent a cycle atop the singles rankings from Feb. 12-25. She now rides a 15-match singles win streak for a 24-3 overall record and 11-0 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.
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.