In its 22nd consecutive and 31st overall trip to the NCAA Tournament, the No. 5 seeded USC women's tennis team has locked in on back-to-back trips to the NCAA Round of 16, carrying a 15-match win streak into this year's edition. The Women of Troy (23-2) are aiming to better last year's run to the 2012 NCAA Semifinals, and to do so USC will again need to get through a conference opponent. The Trojans are lined up for an NCAA Round of 16 clash with No. 12 seed Stanford (18-4) on Friday (May 17) at 12 p.m. CT at University of Illinois' Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex in Urbana, Ill. The clash is a rematch of last year's Quarterfinals, where USC upset the Cardinal to advance to the 2012 semis. The 2013 NCAA Quarterfinals will be held at 12 p.m. CT on Sunday (May 19). The Semifinals are set for 5 p.m. CT on Monday (May 20) and the 2013 NCAA Championship bout will be at 5 p.m. CT on Tuesday (May 21).
Last season, the Women of Troy made their first NCAA Semifinal appearance since 2006 thanks to an impressive 4-2 upset of Stanford in the NCAA Round of 16 to set up the fourth USC-UCLA clash of the year. The Bruins captured the ticket to the final with a 4-3 win over the Trojans in the semis, putting USC with a 24-4 overall record in 2012. This year's NCAA appearance is USC's 22nd straight trip to the postseason and 31st overall, holding a 65-29 record in the tourney after the Trojans' wins in last weekend's NCAA First and Second Rounds. This year's No. 5 seed into the draw equals last season's seeding, which was the best since a No. 3 seeding in 2006. USC has won seven national championships in all, including NCAA championship titles in 1983 and 1985 after the NCAA began its women's tennis championships in 1982.
TROJANS TO DATE
Ranked No. 5 in the nation and holding a 23-2 overall record entering the NCAA Round of 16, the USC women are riding a 15-match win streak and holding the fewest losses in a single season since 1985, when the Trojans won their last NCAA title. The back-to-back Pac-12 Team Champions carry a 13-match win streak into the 2013 NCAA Championships, and have already recorded their 15th 20-win season in program history. The USC women also boast the freshly crowned Pac-12 Doubles Champions Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria, two-time ITA National Indoor champs who just recently grabbed their second consecutive conference title. In the last round of ITA rankings, the Women of Troy have four players nationally ranked in singles: #2 Sabrina Santamaria, #9 Danielle Lao, #27 Zoë Scandalis, and #79 Gabriella DeSimone. That crew includes four 2012 ITA All-Americans in Christian, Santamaria, Lao and Scandalis.
ITA RANKING UPDATES
The last set of 2013 Campbell/ITA national team rankings were unfurled on May 2, with the USC women ranked No. 5 in the land for the fifth 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 May 2, with sophomore Sabrina Santamaria -- once ranked No. 1 in the nation in singles -- still locked at No. 2 in the land. Senior Danielle Lao stands at No. 9 to hold strong in the top-10. Sophomore Zoë Scandalis is currently No. 27, followed by fellow sophomore No. 79 Gabriella DeSimone. In doubles, USC's top guns Santamaria and Kaitlyn Christian remain undefeated, but have slipped down to No. 2 after having reigned supreme as the nation's No. 1 team all season long until the April 16 ranking cycle. USC also has No. 54 DeSimone/Scandalis and No. 81 Lao/Pulido locked in the national doubles rankings.
BACK-TO-BACK CONFERENCE CROWNS
Last season, USC finished atop the Pac-12 standings with a 9-1 record, falling only to Stanford in 2012. This year, the Trojans avenged that loss to the Cardinal with a powerful 6-1 win over Stanford last month. USC beat Cal and Stanford both that weekend to give those teams their only losses of the year, guaranteeing the Trojans at least a share of the 2013 Pac-12 Championship. To top it all off, USC would finish the regular season by pounding crosstown rival UCLA 6-1 for the second straight season in the teams' Pac-12 meeting, this time on the Trojans' home courts. The dominating win over the Bruins also secured the Women of Troy as the undefeated champions of the Pac-12 for 2013. The 6-1 win over No. 7 UCLA iced a perfect Pac-12 finish for the Trojans, who won 13 straight matches to close the regular season with a 21-2 overall record and that shining 10-0 Pac-12 finish. The victory also marked USC's first back-to-back wins over UCLA since the 2006 season.
DOUBLED UP IN OJAI
USC women's tennis has one of the most indisputably dynamic doubles duo on the scene. The Trojan tandem of Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria served up their 30th consecutive win of the season when they made it an undefeated run to their second straight Pac-12 Doubles Championship. The back-to-back champs locked in on another trophy in Ojai, Calif., with a 6-3, 6-3 win over UCLA's Dolehide/Montez in the title match. What's more, it was the second championship win in just hours for Kaitlyn Christian, who had captured the Pac-12 Singles Invitational Championship earlier in the day with a three-set victory over Stanford's Ellen Tsay. The hardware just keeps piling up for Christian and Santamaria, who already own back-to-back ITA National Indoor Championships together to go along with these back-to-back Pac-12 crowns. The pair carried a 26-match win streak together into this week's Pac-12 Championships. Once the pair eked out a tiebreaker win in the opening round of the draw, it was all business for the Women of Troy. Their Bruin opponents today in the title match could not keep up with the Trojan pair, who ripped ahead to keep their 2013 slate clean on a 6-3, 6-3 win to bring home another championship. Christian's busy day began on the singles courts, but she still had plenty left in the tank for doubles after her three-set match in the Pac-12 invitational singles title match. When her singles clash with No. 2 seeded Ellen Tsay of Stanford stretched into a third set, Christian stayed resolved and grabbed her first championship of the day on a 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 victory to bring her singles win streak out to 13 in a row.
TROJANS BY THE NUMBERS
As USC has successfully gathered in its second straight 20-win season, several Women of Troy are also hitting high marks in the individual win columns. Currently holding a 21-match win streak, Sabrina Santamaria leads the pack with a 30-3 overall singles record, including a perfect 7-0 dual-match mark. Next is Pac-12 Invitational Singles champ Kaitlyn Christian (27-6, 15-3) on a 14-match win streak and Danielle Lao (26-5, 19-2) followed by two more 20-win club members: Gabriella DeSimone at 23-9, 14-4 and Giuliana Olmos at 22-6, 18-4. Other heavy hitters in the Trojan lineup are Zoë Scandalis at 19-8, 15-2 and Ellie Yates (18-4, 14-2). Overall, every single Trojan has a single-digit loss count in singles play, led by Santamaria having won 91 percent of her matches. With USC's win over Oregon on April 14, the Trojans hit 20 teams wins for the third time in the past five seasons and 15th time overall. In doubles action, USC's big winners are the undefeated duo of Christian/Santamaria, who carry a perfect 32-0 record into the NCAA Team Round of 16 this week.
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 once again, 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 #9 in the land, holding a 26-5 overall singles record and a 19-2 mark in dual-match play.
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), Gabriella DeSimone (April 2) and Kaitlyn Christian (April 23). With nine weekly awards won this season, the Trojans have totally dominated the Pac-12 honor roll, which has dished out 14 such awards this year.
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 defended 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 hauled in four major titles together in just over one year as a Trojan tandem. Now with the back-to-back ITA National Team Indoor titles and back-to-back Pac-12 Doubles Championships in hand, Christian and Santamaria are also the proud owners of the 2012 ITA/ Riviera All-American Doubles Championship. Christian/Santamaria currently hold a perfect 32-0 record together this season. Santamaria also spent a cycle atop the singles rankings from Feb. 12-25.
USC women's tennis is sending the usual suspects back into the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships for the 2013 edition of individual postseason play. The Trojans have traded up, too, with sophomore Sabrina Santamaria snagging the No. 2 seed for singles as well as the No. 2 seed for doubles play with teammate Kaitlyn Christian. Senior Danielle Lao has scored a 9-16 seed into the singles scene for a repeat trip to the tourney, and Zoë Scandalis, too, is back in action with an at-large spot in the singles draw. NCAA individual action is set to run May 22-27 in Urbana, Ill. For back-to-back Pac-12 doubles champs Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria, the No. 2 seed into the 2013 NCAA Doubles draw offers an opportunity for the pair to add another title to their laundry list of awards together. The winners of the last two ITA National Indoor Doubles championships, Christian/Santamaria are currently a perfect 30-0 overall and rank No. 2 in the nation. ITA All-Americans last season as the No. 4 seed into the 2012 NCAA Doubles tourney, the pair has locked in another set of All-American honors with this year's No. 2 seed and are the automatic qualifiers out of the Pac-12. Sabrina Santamaria -- who was ranked as the nation's No. 1 singles player for a cycle of February ITA rankings -- has won 21 straight singles matches for an overall record of 30-3 to date. She's also tabbed as the automatic singles qualifier out of the Pac-12 as she stands ranked No. 2 in the nation entering NCAA action. Santamaria now has a solid set of four ITA All-American honors to her name, thanks to her run to the NCAA Singles Quarterfinals last season as a freshman. Making her fourth trip to the NCAA Singles competition in her four years as a Trojan is senior Danielle Lao. An ITA All-American for the first time last year, Lao now has 2013 ITA All-American status as well with this year's pick as a 9-16 seed. The leader of the Women of Troy, who just capped off an undefeated Pac-12 season to win back-to-back conference crowns, Lao has the most dual-match singles wins (18) on the team and holds an overall singles record of 25-5 while standing as the nation's No. 9 ranked singles player. She climbed as high as No. 3 in the nation earlier this season. In her previous three NCAA Singles appearances, Lao has reached the Round of 32 each year as she now looks to break through for a deeper run at the tourney. Also making a return trip to NCAA action is sophomore Zoë Scandalis, who reached the Round of 16 last season as a freshman and now also looks to better than run in 2013. A 2012 ITA All-American and the ITA National Player to Watch, Scandalis is currently ranked No. 27 in the nation in singles and is 19-8 overall to date.
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.
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.