No. 10 USC Women Finish Up Pac-10 Play At No. 6 UCLA

April 16, 2008

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THIS WEEK: USC has the power to stop a UCLA push for the Pac-10 Championship this week, as the No. 10-ranked Women of Troy (17-6, 5-2 Pac-10) pay a visit to the No. 6 Bruins (17-5, 6-1) for a 1:30 p.m. match on Friday (April 18) at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. The clash is the final conference dual match of the season for both teams, as the Pac-10 Tournament looms on the horizon, running April 24-27 in Ojai, Calif.

FOLLOW ALONG: Match scores will be available LIVE ONLINE.

ITA RANKING UPDATES: USC ranks #10 in the nation in the latest ITA team rankings (released April 13). The latest individual rankings also were released on April 13, with five Trojans in the rankings -- #13 Amanda Fink, #56 Lindsey Nelson, #90 Gabriela Niculescu, #92 Maria Sanchez and #117 Leyla Entekhabi. In doubles, Fink/Niculescu are ranked #5 in the nation.

SCOUTING UCLA: The Bruins are tied at No. 6 in the nation this week, holding a 17-5 overall record and 6-1 mark in Pac-10 play to stand within reach of claiming at least a share of the Pac-10 title. The Bruins beat ASU and Arizona in 7-0 wins last week. UCLA has five ranked singles players -- #11 Riza Zalameda, #32 Tracy Lin, #41 Yasmin Schnack, #59 Andrea Remynse and #88 Elizabeth Lumpkin -- and #2 Zalameda/Lin, #23 Zalameda/Schnack and #58 Lin/Remynse ranked in doubles. USC is 41-28 all-time against the Bruins after falling 6-1 to UCLA earlier this season at Marks Stadium.

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 47.5-32.5 advantage in pursuit of the 150-pound, pewter-gilded trophy presented by the Southern California Lexus Dealers. USC needs just 10 more points to clinch the trophy. 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 pulled off a home sweep, improving its record at Marks Stadium to 12-2 on the year, with a 5-2 win over #15 ASU and a 6-1 win over Arizona last week. Maria Sanchez had wins across the board, claiming two doubles victories with Cristala Andrews as well as two singles wins from the No. 5 and No. 4 positions. Her straight-set win at No. 5 in the ASU match clinched victory for the Trojans in an important Pac-10 win, as USC rebounded from losing the doubles point to win four straight singles matches and get the victory. At Arizona, USC won out in doubles and captured five straight-set singles wins to improve its Pac-10 mark to 5-2 entering the final week of conference dual match play.

WINNING WAYS: Although her win streak was snapped at a 17-0 run through dual match singles play, Leyla Entekhabi stands out as USC's most successful dual match player, going 19-1 in dual matches and holding a 28-7 overall mark. She was named the Pac-10 Player of the Week after capturing her 14th straight win to clinch victory for the Trojans in Texas. Leading the Women of Troy in total singles wins is Amanda Fink, who holds an overall singles mark of 29-8 and a dual match record of 17-5.

20-SOMETHING: Four Women of Troy have passed up the 20-win mark to date. Freshman Maria Sanchez captured her 20th singles win in Texas and now holds a 25-10 overall record and 16-6 record in dual matches. Amanda Fink leads the Trojans with 29 wins so far (29-8 overall, 17-5 dual), and Leyla Entekhabi (28-7, 19-1) and Gabriela Niculescu (26-8, 18-5) are next in line in the 20s. So far, every Trojan is at .500 or better in dual match singles play.

SENIOR STAR: Lindsey Nelson -- 2007 Pac-10 singles champion and three-time All-American -- has 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 ranks #56 in the ITA rankings. Battling injuries, Nelson now holds a 13-14 overall record and 11-11 dual match mark against some of the top players in the nation. 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 first 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. 13 in the nation, Fink leads the Trojans with 29 singles wins, going 17-5 in dual match singles play and 29-8 overall. Although injuries have limited her time on the court this year, Fansler holds a 10-9 dual record and 12-13 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 #5 in the nation and is 28-9 overall and 17-5 in dual match play. Niculescu is also proving herself a singles powerhouse as well. Appearing in every dual match this year, she's 18-5 in dual match play and is 26-8 overall, now ranked #90 in the 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 44-8 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 consecutive 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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