USC Sends Three Into NCAA Singles & Doubles Action
May 20, 2008
SINGLES SCENE: USC has pushed three Women of Troy into the upcoming NCAA Singles Championships, set to be held May 21-26 at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center in Tulsa, Okla. Junior Amanda Fink is the tournament's No. 6 seed in the singles action, joined by senior Lindsey Nelson and sophomore Gabriela Niculescu as at-large selections. Fink and Nelson both have been in the NCAA Singles mix before. Fink, who leads the Trojans with a 35-9 overall singles record and is ranked No. 6 in the nation, reached the Round of 16 in 2006 as a freshman. Now a junior, Fink recently worked her way into the title match of the Pac-10 Singles Championships last week, winning four consecutive straight-set matches before finishing the tournament as the Pac-10 runner-up. A senior, Nelson is a veteran of the NCAA Singles Championships, having reached the championship match the past two seasons. Nelson worked her way into the NCAA Round of 16 as a freshman, then powered to the final as a sophomore in 2006 and again as a junior in 2007. In 2006, Nelson fell to Cal's Susie Babos in the championship match, and in 2007 Miami's Audra Cohen captured the title over Nelson. This season, Nelson has fought through injuries but has held strong in the national rankings. She holds a 13-14 overall singles record and is currently ranked No. 57 in the nation. For Niculescu, this will be the first NCAA appearance for the sophomore, who did not compete in her first year at USC. She boasts a 30-11 overall singles mark and was a semifinalist at the recent Pac-10 Championships. Niculescu is ranked No. 49 in the nation.
DYNAMIC DUO: Scoring a slot in the upcoming 2008 NCAA Doubles Championships in Tulsa are powerful Pac-10 Doubles champions Amanda Fink and Gabriela Niculescu. The Trojan pair will do double duty in Tulsa, mixing up singles competition with doubles action as a 5-8 seed for doubles play. Fink/Niculescu have accumulated a 33-10 overall record after their sweep through the Pac-10 tournament and an NCAA dual match win last week and are ranked No. 5 in the nation.
OPENING MATCHUPS: In singles, sixth-seeded Amanda Fink will face Florida's Julie Cohen at 5 p.m. CT in the Round of 64 on Wednesday (May 21). That same day, Lindsey Nelson will play 9-16 seed Megan Falcon of LSU at 12 p.m. CT, and Gabriela Niculescu faces Katie Rybakova of Florida State at 11 a.m. CT. On Thursday (May 22), doubles Round of 32 competition begins with Fink/Niculescu taking on Tennessee's Caitlin Whoriskey/Zsofia Zubor.
FOLLOW ALONG: Live scoring and other information will be available online throughout the NCAA Championships at Tulsa's Tournament Central at tulsahurricane.com.
ITA RANKING UPDATES: USC ranks #10 in the nation in the latest ITA team rankings (released April 28). The latest individual rankings also were released on April 28, with four Trojans in the rankings -- Pac-10 singles runner-up Amanda Fink ranks #6, followed by #49 Gabriela Niculescu, #57 Lindsey Nelson and #97 Maria Sanchez. In doubles, Pac-10 champions Fink/Niculescu are ranked #5 in the nation.
RECAPPING THE PAC: In a busy day of championship action at the Pac-10 Women's Tennis Championships in Ojai, Calif., Amanda Fink came away with a doubles title and a runner-up finish in singles. Fink reached the Pac-10 Singles title match for the second time in her Trojan career, but fell 6-3, 6-4 to UCLA's Riza Zalameda. Later in the day, she teamed up with Gabriela Niculescu and powered to the Pac-10 Doubles Championship with a 7-5, 6-1 win over Cal's Cossou/Ilcinkas. Fink/Niculescu become the second Trojan pair ever to claim the Pac-10 doubles crown. The last USC winners were Lupita Novelo/Ginny Purdy in 1987. In order to break back into the champions column, the Women of Troy had to get past the upset-minded Cal pair of Cossou/Ilcinkas. The No. 2 seeded Trojans had a relatively tight first set against the Bears, but pounded out a decisive second set to lock down the doubles title with a 7-5, 6-1 victory. In her second appearance in the Pac-10 Singles championship match, second-seeded Fink had to get past a familiar foe in fourth-seeded Riza Zalameda of UCLA. The pair had clashed in USC's final regular-season dual match, and Fink captured a 5-7, 7-6 (4), 1-0 (10-8) win over Zalameda after the dual match had already been decided as a UCLA victory. Fink moved into the Pac-10 Championships with a three-match singles win streak and ballooned it to seven in a row entering today's singles title match with Zalameda. After four straight-set wins in the Pac-10 tourney, Fink came up against a tough opponent in Zalameda, who managed to take the Pac-10 crown with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Fink.
THIS TIME LAST YEAR: Individually, USC had two players compete in the 2007 NCAA Singles Championships in Athens, Ga. A freshman, Sarah Fansler fell in the first round to Vanderbilt's Amanda Taylor. Meanwhile, junior Lindsey Nelson powered her way to her second straight NCAA Singles final -- first upsetting second-seeded Megan Falcon of LSU in the semifinals -- before she fell to top-seeded Audra Cohen of Miami in the title match.
WINNING WAYS: Leading the Women of Troy in total singles victories is Amanda Fink, who holds an overall singles mark of 35-9 and a dual match record of 19-5. Also responsible for singing the National Anthem at USC home matches, Fink currently stands one win away from notching her 100th career singles win, as the junior takes the No. 6 seed into the NCAA Singles Championships.
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 #57 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 Susie 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.
DOUBLE TROUBLE: Gabriela Niculescu sat out her first year at Troy but is good to go for 2008. She and Amanda Fink were a quick success together in fall doubles action, claiming the ITA West Regional doubles championship, and have remained dominant throughout, recently capturing the Pac-10 Doubles Championship. The pair now ranks #5 in the nation and is 33-10 overall and 18-6 in dual match play. Niculescu also has proven herself a singles powerhouse as well. Appearing in every dual match this year, she went 20-7 in dual match play and is 30-11 overall, now ranked #49 in the ITA rankings.
TEAM PLAY: With this year's NCAA ticket, the Women of Troy made their 26th overall appearance in the NCAA team tournament and 10th straight trip to the NCAA final 16 -- a feat only USC and Stanford can claim since the tournament grew to 64 teams. With a 4-0 loss to UCLA in the NCAA Round of 16 last week, USC finished the 2008 season with a 19-8 overall record, having finished Pac-10 competition at 5-3.