THIS WEEK - The No. 5 USC women's tennis team stands tall as the only team still undefeated in Pac-12 play entering its last two matches of the regular season. To keep that slate clean this week, the Trojans will need to contend with just one opponent. USC (19-2, 8-0 Pac-12 ) goes back on the road for a Sunday (April 14) match at No. 64 Oregon (12-8, 1-7) in Eugene. The last hurrah for the Women of Troy will come the following week with a grudge match against UCLA at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday (April 18) at Marks Stadium, where the Trojans and the Bruins will square off to break up a season split between the two rivals.
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ITA RANKING UPDATES
The last set of 2013 Campbell/ITA national team rankings were unfurled on April 9, with the USC women ranked No. 5 in the land for the second straight cycle. 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 for just one week. The latest individual rankings were released April 9, 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. 8 to hold strong in the top-10. Sophomore Zoë Scandalis is currently No. 30, followed by fellow sophomores No. 58 Gabriella DeSimone and No. 114 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. 42 DeSimone/Scandalis and No. 50 Lao/Pulido locked in the national doubles rankings.
This month's USC-UCLA showdown has been moved from its originally scheduled date. To catch the crosstown rivalry clash --which could well determine the Pac-12 Championship -- come to Marks Stadium at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 18. The singles portion of the match will begin at 3 p.m. and will be televised by Pac-12 Networks, and there will be a food truck for USC fans!
USC rounded up a road sweep and its 11th straight victory with a 7-0 sweep of Arizona State and a 6-1 win over host Arizona last week. The Trojans started the trip by forging a clearer path toward a perfect Pac-12 season in taking out the only other undefeated conference team with sweep of host No. 22 Arizona State. The tone was set with the No. 3 doubles pairing of Olmos/Yates, who cruised to an 8-1 win. On court two, USC's #36 DeSimone/Scandalis pinned up the doubles point by pulling off an 8-6 win over ASU's #62 Krawczyk/Sahagun, and USC was off to the races. Freshman Ellie Yates and sophomore Giuliana Olmos would continue on their path of productivity in singles. Yates rolled up a smooth 6-3, 6-0 win over Ebony Panoho for a 2-0 USC advantage, and Olmos drained a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Joanna Smith to pump the Trojans up to a 3-0 lead. The nail in the match was pounded by USC senior Danielle Lao. The #7 Lao tacked up a near-perfect 6-0, 6-1 win over #106 Desirae Krawczyk to secure that 10th consecutive win for the Trojans and put them in closer reach of a Pac-12 title. Three more matches were underway in the singles realm and those, too, were dominated by the Women of Troy. #2 Sabrina Santamaria secured her 18th straight singles win on a 6-3, 6-3 takedown of #23 Jacqueline Cako, and her fellow sophomores Zoë Scandalis and Gabriella DeSimone followed suit with straight-set wins. #27 Scandalis beat Leighann Sahagun 6-2, 6-1 from court three, and #70 DeSimone captured a 6-2, 6-1 win over Hannah James to put the finishing touches on the 7-0 sweep for the Trojans. The next day in Tucson, USC was similarly powerful. Streaking out to her 19th consecutive singles win was the clincher, #2 Sabrina Santamaria, who won her match at the top spot to secure victory for the Women of Troy. To kick off the day, USC's pairing of Lao/Santamaria at the No. 1 doubles spot gave the Trojans the early advantage with an 8-1 win over Arizona's Austin/Smyth. Over on court three, USC's Olmos/Yates locked the doubles point in the Trojans' scoring column with an 8-4 victory over McRann/Oldham to push the teams through to singles action. At the No. 3 singles spot, USC's #70 Gabriella DeSimone was all business in her matchup with Laura Oldham, cruising to a 6-2, 6-0 win that made it a 2-0 Trojan advantage. Stepping into the No. 6 slot was USC senior Valeria Pulido, who overcame a tight first set with Inge Hendrikx and dominated in the second to win it 7-6, 6-1 to take USC ahead 3-0. That's when USC's #2 Sabrina Santamaria came through with the clincher, taking down #60 Lacey Smyth with a second-set tiebreaker as she made it 4-0 Trojans with her 6-3, 7-6 (3) decision that also notched the sophomore's 19th consecutive singles win. The next Trojan to punch her way to victory was #116 Giuliana Olmos on a 7-5, 6-1 takedown of Akilah James on court four. Arizona would register its only point of the day when Shayne Austin managed to hold off USC freshman Ellie Yates and pull out a three-setter with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 win for the Wildcats. There was one other three-setter underway, with USC's #27 Zoë Scandalis doing battle with Kim Stubbe on court two. Scandalis had surrendered the second set but was on the verge of victory in the third when Stubbe retired from the match with injury. The decision rounded out the match as a 6-1 Trojan victory.
The No. 64 Ducks are 12-8 overall and 1-7 in Pac-12 play after beating San Francisco 4-3 and losing 7-0 to Cal and Stanford last week. Oregon has no players ranked nationally in singles or doubles. USC is 17-0 all-time against the Ducks after a 7-0 win last season in Los Angeles.
TROJANS BY THE NUMBERS
As USC racks up team wins in pursuit of back-to-back 20-win seasons, several Women of Troy are already hitting high marks in the individual win columns. Currently holding a 19-match win streak, Sabrina Santamaria leads the pack with a 28-3 overall singles record, including a perfect 15-0 dual-match mark. Next is Danielle Lao (25-4, 18-1) followed by another 20-win club member, Gabriella DeSimone at 20-8, 12-4. Two Trojans are poised to hit 20 -- Kaitlyn Christian (19-6, 12-3) and Giuliana Olmos (19-4, 16-3). If the Trojans can haul in a win over Oregon this week, USC will have hit 20 teams wins for the third time in the past five seasons and 15th time overall. Other heavy hitters in the Trojan lineup are Zoë Scandalis at 15-7, 11-2 and Ellie Yates (13-3, 12-2). No Trojan has lost more than one Pac-12 singles match this season.
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. She's now ranked #8 in the land, holding a 25-4 overall singles record and an 18-1 mark in dual-match play thanks to a nine-match win streak.
USC has a full lineup of Pac-12 Player of the Week recipients this season, led by three-time honoree Sabrina Santamaria. Santmaria picked up the first award of the year on Jan. 21, and Giuliana Olmos made it back-to-back honors with a win in the second week of action (Jan. 28). Joining the honor roll since then have been four more Women of Troy: Danielle Lao (Feb. 12), Ellie Yates (March 5), Zoë Scandalis (March 19) and Gabriella DeSimone (April 2).
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 25-0 record together this season. Santamaria also spent a cycle atop the singles rankings from Feb. 12-25.
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.