No. 7 USC Women Host Washington Schools

March 4, 2008

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THIS WEEK: USC's home stretch continues this week with its first Pac-10 counting matches of the year at Marks Stadium. The No. 7 Women of Troy (9-3) first host No. 34 Washington (9-3) in a 1:30 p.m. match on Friday (Mar. 7) and then face off against No. 36 Washington State (10-3) at 12 p.m. on Saturday (Mar. 8).

ITA RANKING UPDATES: USC (9-3) moved up to #7 in the nation in the latest ITA team rankings (released March 4). The latest individual rankings also were released on March 4, with six Trojans up in the rankings -- #17 Amanda Fink, #38 Lindsey Nelson, #66 Gabriela Niculescu, #101 Leyla Entekhabi, #105 Maria Sanchez and #119 Sarah Fansler. In doubles, Fink/Niculescu are ranked #8 in the nation.

USC VS. WASHINGTON: The Huskies rank No. 34 in the nation and are 9-3 overall after beating Oregon 6-1 last week. Washington has one ranked singles player, #41 Venise Chan. USC is 14-1 all-time against the Huskies after a 7-0 sweep last season. USC's only loss to Washington was a 6-1 decision in Seattle in 2003.

USC VS. WASHINGTON STATE: The Cougars rank No. 36 in the nation and are 10-3 overall after beating Oregon 4-3 last week. WSU has two ranked singles players -- #44 Ekaterina Burduli and #98 Tara Simpson. USC is 13-0 all-time against the Cougars after a 7-0 sweep last season.

RECENT RESULTS: USC returned home last week and picked up a tough split, upsetting then-No. 8 Cal 6-1 before coming close to snapping a 47-match losing streak to No. 6 Stanford but falling 4-3 to the Cardinal. After dropping the doubles point to Cal, the USC fired back by sweeping singles play en route to a 6-1 win over the visiting Bears on Friday afternoon at Marks Stadium. Straight-set wins from Lindsey Nelson, Maria Sanchez and Leyla Entekhabi put USC within reach of victory, and then Amanda Fink pinned up a three-setter to clinch the match. The next day, USC kept a close rein on Stanford but fell in a tight 4-3 decision. Doubles play ended in Stanford's favor, as Stanford's Durkin/McVeigh pulled out a tiebreaker win at No. 3 with a 9-8 (5) decision over Fansler/Kinstler to get Stanford the first point of the match. In singles, USC's #97 Gabriela Niculescu leveled the match up with a solid 6-4, 6-1 upset of #54 Celia Durkin. Another straight-set win came for USC from the No. 6 slot, where Leyla Entekhabi posted yet another win - her 11th straight. Neither Lindsey Nelson nor Amanda Fink were able to upset their higher-ranked opponents as Stanford went up 3-2 with the three-setters at No. 3 and No. 5. Sarah Fansler pulled out some serious heroics in fighting off match point to win the second set in a tiebreaker. She fell behind 5-1 in the third set and again pressed the issue with a comeback surge, coming up just short of Burdette in the eventual 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-4 decision. The last match remaining saw Maria Sanchez dig her way out of a hole, trailing Whitney Deason 4-0 in the third set and coming back to win 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (3).

WINNING WAYS: Win streaks are alive and well for several Women of Troy, led by an unblemished dual match singles record by Leyla Entekhabi, who is 10-0 in dual matches and 18-4 overall with an 11-match win streak intact.Holding five-match winning runs are Gabriela Niculescu (10-2, 18-5) and Maria Sanchez (9-3, 18-7).

SENIOR STAR: Lindsey Nelson -- 2007 Pac-10 singles champion and three-time All-American has -- 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 brought a 91-27 overall singles record into the dual match season. She opened with four straight wins at the No. 1 singles slot this year, and has moved up again the ITA rankings at #38, holding a 9-7 overall record and 7-4 dual matches mark while battling injuries. Nelson's 100th career singles win came in a match against a familiar opponent -- Cal's Suzi Babos, who beat Nelson in the 2006 NCAA Championship but lost to Nelson in the 2007 Pac-10 Championship -- on Feb. 29 in USC's dual match against the Bears.

BACK FOR MORE: 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. Now ranked No. 17 in the nation, Fink leads the Trojans with 21 singles win, going 9-2 in dual match singles play and 21-5 overall. Fansler holds a 6-5 dual record and 8-9 singles mark so far this season.

DOUBLE TROUBLE: 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. The pair ranks #8 in the nation and is 21-5 overall and 10-1 in dual match play. Niculescu is also proving herself a singles powerhouse as well. She's 10-2 in dual match play and is 18-5 overall, now ranked No. 66 in ITA rankings.

FIRST THINGS FIRST: 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. The freshman foursome is a combined 21-4 in singles dual match play so far this season.

LAST 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.

WHAT'S TO COME: 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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