No. 9 USC Women A Win Away From Undefeated Pac-10 Finish

April 15, 2009

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THIS WEEK: USC has its final regular-season dual match on tap, and the No. 9 Women of Troy have built up 11 matches-worth of momentum on the way into this week's showdown with crosstown rival No. 10 UCLA. USC has already sewn up its first Pac-10 Championship in program history, but the Trojans can put the finishing touches on an undefeated Pac-10 season and claim sole rights to the conference crown with a win over the Bruins. USC (19-2, 7-0 Pac-10) takes on UCLA (17-5, 5-2) in a 3 p.m. match on Friday (April 17) at USC's own Marks Stadium.

CAMPBELL/ITA RANKING UPDATES: The latest Campbell/ITA national rankings have USC at No. 9 in the nation, as of April 14. Singles and doubles rankings also were released April 14, with Maria Sanchez leading the way at #18 in singles and four other Women of Troy well settled in the nation's top-100: #28 Amanda Fink, #34 Sarah Fansler, #65 Alison Ramos and #76 Gabriela Niculescu. Four USC doubles duos also are nationally ranked: #11 Fink/Niculescu, #27 Niculescu/Sanchez, #65 Fansler/Kinstler and #86 Ramos/Sanchez.

IN THE HISTORY BOOKS: USC's current 7-0 record in Pac-10 play has solidified the Women of Troy as Pac-10 champions for the first time in program history. A win over UCLA on Friday would hold USC as the sole undefeated team in the conference -- another USC first -- thanks in large part to big wins over rival Pac-10 powers Stanford and Cal this season. The Trojans' 5-2 win over the Cardinal snapped a 50-match losing streak to Stanford and notched USC's first win over the Cardinal since 1986. Stanford has either won outright or shared the Pac-10 title for the 21 seasons.

SCOUTING UCLA: UCLA is ranked No. 10 in the nation and is 17-5 overall and 5-2 in Pac-10 play after beating Arizona State 4-2 and Arizona 4-2 last week. USC is 41-31 all-time against the Bruins after getting edged 4-3 in the teams' previous meeting earlier this season in Westwood. UCLA has claimed the past five matches with the Trojans. The Bruins have #15 Yasmin Schnack, #53 Andrea Remynse and #95 Maya Johansson nationally ranked in singles and #4 Remynse/Schnack, #38 Joelson/Schnack, #56 Seguso/Wetmore and #60 Pantic/Schnack ranked in doubles.

GRAB THE GAUNTLET: This Friday's match marks a chance for USC to add 2.5 points to the Trojan tally in the 2008-09 USC-UCLA Lexus Gauntlet rivalry. Each year, all 18 sports are involved in deciding which school wins the perpetual trophy presented by the Southern California Lexus Dealers Association. This year, USC is aiming to break the cycle and winning the trophy for the second straight season, as the Trojans hold a 42.5-37.5 lead on the Bruins. The schools have traded the trophy since the competition first began in 2002. USC won the inaugural trophy in 2002 and again in 2004, 2006 and 2008.

RECENT ACTION: USC won out under cloudy skies in Arizona, sweeping through the weekend with a 5-2 win at Arizona and a 4-2 win at ASU to secure the rights to USC's first-ever Pac-10 Championship. Against the Wildcats, USC slipped up in doubles play but rebounded with a powerful push through singles play to notch the 5-2 win. The next day, USC and ASU put off doubles play due to impending wet weather, opting to play out singles first for today's Pac-10 clash. Rain continued to interrupt the matches throughout, leaving #26 Amanda Fink's deciding match at the No. 3 position hanging in the balance late in the decisive third set. After another break in play, Fink finished off ASU's Laila Abdala to capture the senior's 16th straight singles win and clinch the match for the Trojans. Fink's 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 comeback win put USC up 4-2 and locked down the historic conference crown for the Women of Troy. Also picking up crucial singles wins for the Trojans in the match were #18 Maria Sanchez, #65 Alison Ramos and Leyla Entekhabi. Sanchez's win may have highlighted the match, as the sophomore upset the nation's #3 player Kelcy McKenna with a solid 6-2, 6-3 win at the No. 1 position. As the Pac-10's only undefeated team with just one match left in the regular season, USC has secured at least a share of the Pac-10 team title - a feat never before achieved by the Women of Troy.

THE 300 CLUB: USC head coach Richard Gallien hit a new benchmark early this season in claiming his 300th career victory. With a 4-0 win over Michigan State during ITA National Indoor Qualifying, Gallien bumped his career coaching record up to 300-128. He entered the 2009 season carrying an all-time record of 297-128, and he had posted a 235-104 record as head coach at USC. In his 16 years as a head coach ¬¬-- 13 of which have come at USC -- Gallien has strung together 13 straight NCAA appearances for his Women of Troy, 12 top-20 team rankings, six trips to the NCAA Quarterfinals, one to the NCAA Semifinals in 2006 and Round of 16 runs in the past two seasons. Under Gallien's watch, USC has finished no lower than 11th in the past nine years.

TOP GUNS: Thanks to a tagteam effort from sophomore Maria Sanchez, junior Sarah Fansler and senior Amanda Fink all spending the bulk of their time in the top three singles positions, the Trojans have had a reliable force at the top of the lineup for much of dual match play. Though injuries interrupted some of her court time, #18 Sanchez has accumulated a 24-8 singles record on the season. #28 Fink leads all with 27 wins so far, including a 16-match winning streak for a 27-7 singles mark. #34 Fansler is at 18-13 overall, making her one of six Women of Troy holding at least 15 wins so far. #65 Alison Ramos is 25-9 overall; #76 Gabriela Niculescu is 23-11; and Leyla Entekhabi is up to 18-9 playing largely at the No. 5 and 6 positions.

SOLID AT SIX: Sophomores Lyndsay Kinstler and Cristala Andrews have been called upon several times this season to fill in at the No. 6 slot in the lineup, and both have come up big for the Women of Troy. Both boast winning singles marks overall and in dual match play. Kinstler is 12-10 overall and has gone 1-0 at the No. 5 position and 4-2 at No. 6. Andrews is 10-5 overall and 30- at the No. 6 position so far this season. They've both also factored into doubles play, as Kinstler ranks #65 in the nation playing with Sarah Fansler and Andrews has filled in recently with Alison Ramos and with Leyla Entekhabi for a 4-1 combined mark in dual match doubles.

MIGHTY MARIA: Back in the singles lineup after being sidelined by injury for the previous three matches, sophomore Maria Sanchez had two powerful outings in singles action for the Trojans to help USC secure its first-ever Pac-10 team title. In doing so, Sanchez also worked her way toward her first career Pac-10 Player of the Week honor. Sanchez opened the winning weekend back in action by gutting out a three-setter at Arizona over Danielle Steinberg to help USC to a 5-2 win over the Wildcats. At No. 25 ASU the next day, Sanchez made shorter work of her highly ranked Sun Devil opponent #3 Kelcy McKenna with a straight-set win to get No. 9 USC to a 4-2 victory. With her two wins over ranked opponents, #18 Sanchez improved to 24-8 overall in singles and is 10-5 in dual matches.

FINK ON THE RUN: Senior Amanda Fink has won 16 straight singles matches entering the week, with glittering highlights coming in USC's bigger Pac-10 wins. Fink's match-clinching win at No. 3 vs. Cal was followed by a jump to No. 2 with Sanchez out of the lineup and another straight-set win to open singles against Stanford. At ASU last week, she came through with clinching heroics again to tip the scales to victory and push USC into a historic Pac-10 title. Those efforts have also gone along with a clean slate in doubles with Gabriela Niculescu to help USC to the doubles point in each match. For her dominance vs. Cal and Stanford, Fink picked up her first career honors as Pac-10 Player of the Week.

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