No. 8 USC Women Off To National Team Indoors

Feb. 6, 2008

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The undefeated No. 8 Women of Troy (4-0) have a competitive stretch ahead of them, as USC joins 16 of the top teams in the nation at the ITA National Team Indoors, running Feb. 7-10 in Madison, Wisc. USC picked up the No. 7 seed into the tourney and is lined up to open action against Arkansas in a 9 a.m. match on Thursday (Feb. 7). A win there would put the Trojans up against either No. 2 UCLA or No. 14 North Carolina in the quarterfinals the following day. Live scoring and results will be available throughout the tournament at

USC (5-0) remains ranked #8 in the nation in the latest ITA team rankings (released Feb. 5). In preseason singles rankings (released Jan. 8), the ITA has junior Amanda Fink ranked #51 and sophomore Gabriela Niculescu ranked #78. In doubles, Fink/Niculescu rank #5 in the nation.

Arkansas is ranked No. 39 in the nation and is 4-0 on the year. The Razorbacks are led by top-ranked singles player Aurelija Miseviciute. USC has played Arkansas only once before -- a 5-4 USC victory at the 1999 ITA National Team Indoors.

The Trojans have made 13 previous appearances at the prestigious ITA National Women's Team Indoor Championships, getting as far as the semifinals twice (1988 and 2003). USC is 17-22 overall at the tournament, and last competed in 2004.

USC dug out two more wins last week to improve to 4-0 on the year. First, thanks to some help from the skies, the Trojans were able to replay their match with Long Beach State. USC cruised to a 7-0 sweep of the 49ers, snagging the doubles point before reeling off six straight-set singles wins. Freshman Maria Sanchez had the match-clinching victory with a 6-2, 6-0 win at the No. 5 position. Next, USC faced No. 18 Pepperdine for another competitive battle with the Waves, as the Trojans grabbed a 5-2 win. USC lost its first doubles point of the year but answered back swiftly. Serving up the deciding blow for the Trojans was another freshman, Leyla Entekhabi, who not only had a hand in a win at No. 3 doubles but also secured victory from the No. 6 singles slot with her 6-2, 7-6 win.

Entering the action in Wisconsin, four Trojans boast clean slates in dual match play so far, as Lindsey Nelson (4-0), Gabriela Niculescu (4-0), Amanda Fink (3-0) and Leyla Entekhabi (4-0) are all undefeated in singles play.

Headlining the recent successes of the Women of Troy has been senior Lindsey Nelson. The 2007 Pac-10 singles champion and three-time All-American has now made back-to-back trips to the NCAA singles final. A two-time Honda Award finalist, Nelson is USC's lone senior on the roster this year, and she brings a 91-27 overall singles record into the dual match season. She's also undefeated at the No. 1 singles slot this year, holding a 6-3 overall singles mark to date.

USC has two National Rookies of the Year on the roster for 2008. Now a junior, 2006 Rookie of the Year Amanda Fink is is joined by 2007 Rookie of the Year Sarah Fansler. Fansler and Fink stacked up at No. 2 and No. 3 singles, respectively, throughout much of the 2007 season. After leading the Trojans in singles wins with 32 as a freshman, Fansler earned a spot in the NCAA Singles Championships along with Nelson. Fink shined in singles and doubles once again, and earned her second All-Pac-10 selection. Ranked No. 51 in the preseason, Fink is undefeated in dual match singles play and is on a six-match win streak for a 15-3 overall record. Fansler holds a 5-5 singles mark so far this season.

Gabriela Niculescu sat out her first year at Troy but is good to go for 2008. She and Amanda Fink have already teamed up in fall doubles action, claiming the ITA West Regional doubles championship and entering the 2008 dual match season as the #5 doubles team in the nation. Niculescu is also proving herself a singles powerhouse as well. She's undefeated in dual match play and is 12-3 overall, ranked No. 78 in ITA preseason rankings.

USC has added four freshmen to the 2008 roster, and all four have already jumped into the win column. Cristala Andrews, Leyla Entekhabi, Lyndsay Kinstler and Maria Sanchez have all proven themselves as winners, tacking up victories in dual match play and in individual tournaments this season. Entekhabi, Kinstler and Sanchez are a combined 8-1 in singles dual match play so far this season.

USC made its ninth straight appearance at the NCAA Championships after making its fourth straight second-place finish in Pac-10 action. USC posted a 19-5 overall record and reached the NCAA Championships Round of 16, where the Trojans fell 4-3 to its 2007 NCAA Semifinals opponent Miami.

In order to stretch USC's NCAA appearance run to 10 straight trips, the Women of Troy will have a long dual-match season to power through. The only teams to beat the Trojans during the regular season in the past three years ¬-- since Lindsey Nelson took up residence at Troy -- have been Pac-10 teams Stanford, Cal and UCLA, and nonconference foe Baylor. The Trojans will have their usual two clashes with the Pac-10 schools, and the only out-of-state nonconference trip on the docket will take USC to Texas for a dual match tilt in March.

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