No. 7 USC Women Wind Up For NCAA Regionals
May 5, 2009
TEAM PLAY: USC is toting a 12-match winning streak as the Women of Troy prepare for their 18th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Women's Tennis Championships. USC has locked down the No. 7 seed into this year's tournament, and the Trojans set up as hosts for the first two rounds of play. With a ticket to the Round of 16 and beyond - to be held May 15-19 in College Station, Texas - up for grabs, USC will host some heated competition next weekend at Marks Stadium. Three teams will join the Women of Troy in Los Angeles for the first and second rounds, with USC (20-2) opening up against Fairfield (16-4) for its first-round match, set for 12 p.m. on Saturday (May 9). That match will be preceded by a first-round battle between Washington (16-7) and San Diego State (17-8) at 9 a.m. that morning. The winning teams will face off in the second round at 12 p.m. on Sunday (May 10) for the right to move on to Texas.
NCAA NOTES: The Women of Troy ran undefeated through Pac-10 play to balloon their winning streak to 12 straight matches on the way into this year's NCAA Championships. USC's ticket to the 2009 postseason marks its 28th overall appearance in the NCAA team tournament. After a journey to the Round of 16 last season as a No. 10 seed, USC holds a 56-25 all-time record in NCAA Tournament play, having won seven national championships. The 1983 and 1984 crowns both were NCAA titles, as the NCAA began its women's tennis championships in 1982.
FOLLOW ALONG: The NCAA First and Second Round matches this week at USC's Marks Stadium will have live scoring updates as well as live video available. CLICK HERE to access the live updates.
SINGLES SCENE: The USC women have three singles players lined up for NCAA action for the second straight season. Hailing from the No. 7 seeded USC women's squad are junior Sarah Fansler, senior Amanda Fink and sophomore Maria Sanchez. Fansler, Fink and Sanchez all secured singles spots thanks in large part to top-50 national rankings. For No. 22-ranked Pac-10 Singles Champion Fink, the NCAA Singles Championship slot marks the senior's third appearance in the action. She reached the Round of 16 as a freshman and pushed through to Quarterfinals last season for All-American honors both years. This year, Fink is holding a 22-match winning streak and a 33-7 overall record as she and the Women of Troy head into the NCAA Team Championships next weekend. As the nation's No. 23 player, Sanchez has secured her first ticket to the NCAA Singles Championships. Despite injury in the spring, Sanchez has generated a powerful 24-9 singles record while playing largely at the No. 1 slot in USC dual matches. In the fall, the sophomore won the ITA Regional Singles Championship. Joining Fink and Sanchez in the NCAA women's singles competition will be Fansler. It's Fansler's second trip to the NCAA Singles Championships, as she was an All-American and named ITA Rookie of the Year in her first year as a Trojan in 2007. Fansler holds a 19-13 overall singles record on her way into the coming postseason stretch. NCAA Singles and Doubles Championship competition will run May 20-25 in College Station, Texas.
DYNAMIC DUO: On the doubles side of things, No. 5-ranked back-to-back Pac-10 Doubles Champions Amanda Fink / Gabriela Niculescu have snagged another 5-8 seed into the NCAA Doubles Championships. The pair holds a 22-6 overall doubles record as the Trojans turn to the NCAA Team Championships and both earned All-America honors last season as they powered to the NCAA quarterfinals in 2008.
CAMPBELL/ITA RANKING UPDATES: The latest Campbell/ITA national rankings have USC at No. 7 in the nation, as of April 28. All season long, the Women of Troy have had five players ranked in the Campbell/ITA national rankings. Leading the way in the most recent rankings (released April 28) is Amanda Fink at #22. Closely following her are #23 Maria Sanchez , #42 Sarah Fansler, #68 Alison Ramos and #89 Gabriela Niculescu. In doubles, Fink/Niculescu rank #5, followed by #37 Niculescu/Sanchez, #62 Fansler/Kinstler and #78 Ramos/Sanchez.
RECAPPING THE PAC: USC's powerful run through the regular season was highlighted by the Trojans' first-ever Pac-10 Championship, in which USC snapped a 21-year stretch of Stanford claiming the conference crown, and for which the Women of Troy earned the automatic bid into the NCAA Championships. Soon after closing the regular season as the outright conference champ, USC flexed some of its individual muscle at the Pac-10 Individual Championships in Ojai, Calif., where USC's lone senior Amanda Fink captured her first Pac-10 Singles Championship with her 22nd straight singles win, and then made it back-to-back Pac-10 Doubles Championships with teammate Gabriela Niculescu.
IN THE HISTORY BOOKS: USC's perfect 8-0 record in Pac-10 play solidified the Women of Troy as Pac-10 champions for the first time in program history. A 5-2 win over UCLA on Friday secured 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 had either won outright or shared the Pac-10 title for the 21 seasons.
THIS TIME LAST YEAR: USC picked up the No. 10 seed into the 2008 NCAA Team Championships and set up camp at home for the first two rounds. There, the Trojans topped Marist and Pepperdine both in 4-0 wins to earn a trip to Tulsa for the NCAA Championships and a Round of 16 matchup against rival UCLA. The No. 7 seeded Bruins got the win, however, beating USC 4-0 to round out the Trojans' overall record at 19-8. In the NCAA Singles action, USC had three players invited as well. Sixth-seeded Amanda Fink worked her way into the Quarterfinals, while Lindsey Nelson and Gabriela Niculescu both reached the Round of 32. In NCAA Doubles, Fink/Niculescu were a 5-8 seed and reached the Quarterfinals.
BREAKING THE BRUINS: USC's regular-season finale against crosstown rival UCLA offered up a chance for USC to snap a five-match losing skid against the Bruins, wrap up an undefeated Pac-10 season, grab the Trojans' 20th win of the year, balloon their win streak to 12 straight, and put a stop to 21 years of Stanford standing at the top of the Pac-10 standings. USC put the finishing touches on all of that in tacking up a 5-2 win over No. 10 UCLA. In doubles, clutch wins from Fansler/Kinstler and Ramos/Sanchez snagged the doubles point for USC. In singles, Gabriela Niculescu made what was relatively quick work of her Bruin opponent, while Maria Sanchez was held off by her higher ranked opponent as UCLA closed in to 2-1. From there, the rest of the matches pushed on into deciding third sets. Leyla Entekhabi plowed her way through a big match at the No. 6 spot to make it 3-1 USC. Meanwhile, at No. 3, Sarah Fansler found herself in a third set as well. In the third, the two traded breaks and Fansler trailed 2-3 until winning three straight to take the lead and then win the match for USC with a 6-0, 4-6, 6-4 decision. In the remaining matches, Alison Ramos fell in three sets at No. 5, and at No. 2 senior Amanda Fink pulled off a comeback to win her 17th straight match and round out the historic finish for the Women of Troy. For her heroics in the win over the Bruins, Sarah Fansler was named Pac-10 Player of the Week -- becoming the third Trojan in four weeks to win the award.
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. With USC at a 20-2 mark through the regular season, his career record now stands at 317-130 entering the 2009 postseason.
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, #23 Sanchez has accumulated a 24-9 singles record on the season. #22 Fink leads all with 33 wins so far, including a 22-match winning streak for a 33-7 singles mark. #42 Fansler is at 19-13 overall, making her one of six Women of Troy holding at least 15 wins so far. #68 Alison Ramos is 26-11 overall; #89 Gabriela Niculescu is 24-12; and Leyla Entekhabi is up to 19-9 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 13-11 overall and has gone 1-0 at the No. 5 position and 4-2 at No. 6. Andrews is 12-6 overall and 3-0 at the No. 6 position so far this season. They've both also factored into doubles play, as Kinstler ranks #62 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: Pac-10 Singles champ Amanda Fink has won 22 straight singles matches entering the week, with glittering highlights coming in USC's bigger Pac-10 dual match 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, the senior came through with clinching heroics again to tip the scales to victory and push USC into a historic Pac-10 title. Those efforts went 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.
PAC-10 PUSH: USC took powerful steps forward in its campaign for its first Pac-10 team title by getting back-to-back big wins in matches with Cal and Stanford. The Trojans opened things with a 4-3 upset win over #8 Cal, clinching the match early with the doubles point and a string of straight-set singles wins capped by Amanda Fink at the No. 3 position. With Maria Sanchez out of the lineup the next day against #11 Stanford with injury, the Trojans adjusted and grabbed a historic win over the Cardinal -- who have either won or shared the Pac-10 title for the past 21 seasons. On March 28, #10 USC stormed to its first win over Stanford in 23 years with a 5-2 decision. The Cardinal had claimed the previous 50 straight dual matches against USC, but the Trojans came up big in doubles and followed that up with a quick win from Fink. A win at No. 5 from Leyla Entekhabi put the Trojans in position to clinch, while freshman Alison Ramos and sophomore Lyndsay Kinstler were gutting out three-setters on the other end of the court. Ramos pulled out her win first, and USC's streak-snapping win over the powerhouse Cardinal was in hand.