No. 8 USC Clashes With No. 10 UCLA On Thursday

March 11, 2008

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THIS WEEK: USC's fifth straight home match sets the Women of Troy up against crosstown rival UCLA on Thursday for the squads' first clash of the season. The No. 8 Trojans (11-3) host the No. 10 Bruins (11-4) at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday (March 13) at Marks Stadium.

ITA RANKING UPDATES: USC (11-3) ranks #7 in the nation in the latest ITA team rankings (released March 11). The latest individual rankings 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. UCLA: The Bruins rank No. 10 in the nation and are 11-4 overall after 7-0 sweeps of Washington State and Washington last week. UCLA has five ranked singles players -- #7 Riza Zalameda, #36 Andrea Remynse, #46 Yasmin Schnack, #56 Elizabeth Lumpkin and #58 Tracy Lin -- and #15 Zalameda/Lin, #43 Lin/Remynse and #51 Lumpkin/Wetmore ranked in doubles. USC is 41-27 all-time against the Bruins after splitting 4-3 decisions last season.

GRAB THE GAUNTLET: With the Lexus Gauntlet in the final stretch of the 18-sport crosstown competition, this USC-UCLA women's match puts another 2.5 points up for grabs. USC currently owns a 50-22.5 advantage in pursuit of the 150-pound, pewter-gilded trophy presented by the Southern California Lexus Dealers. In the first six years of the Gauntlet competition, the archrivals have alternated winning the trophy. USC won the inaugural trophy in 2002, 2004 and 2006. UCLA captured the rivalry's crown jewel in 2003, 2005 and 2007.

RECENT RESULTS: USC pinned up two Pac-10 wins last week in a 6-1 win over Washington and a 7-0 sweep of Washington State. USC cleaned up in doubles in both matches, as Fink/Niculescu extended their doubles win streak out to 10 straight. Singles play was decided in straight sets across the board, except for a third-set 10-point tiebreaker played out after the USC-UW match had been decided. Washington's #41 Venise Chan was able to capture the win over #38 Lindsey Nelson in that No. 1 singles match with a 4-6, 6-2, 1-0 (10-6) decision for the only point surrendered by the Women of Troy last week.

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 12-0 in dual matches and 20-4 overall with a 13-match win streak intact. Holding a seven-match winning runs is Gabriela Niculescu (12-2, 20-5), and freshman Maria Sanchez is on a six-match streak (10-3, 19-7).

20-SOMETHING: Three Women of Troy have nailed the 20-win mark already this season, with one freshman -- Maria Sanchez -- knocking on the door with 19. Amanda Fink leads the Trojans with 23 wins to date, and Leyla Entekhabi and Gabriela Niculescu hit the mark last weekend.

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, now holding a 10-8 overall record and 8-5 dual match 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 23 singles win, going 11-2 in dual match singles play and 23-5 overall. Fansler holds an 8-5 dual record and 10-9 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 23-5 overall and 12-1 in dual match play thanks to a 10-match win streak. Niculescu is also proving herself a singles powerhouse as well. She's 12-2 in dual match play and is 20-5 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 27-4 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.