No. 17 USC Women Defend Home Courts Against ASU, Arizona

April 7, 2010

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The USC women are home again to host a pivotal Pac-10 series against Arizona State and Arizona this week. Trojan wins this week can keep USC in the running for at least a share of the Pac-10 title, as the Women of Troy are 11-7 overall and 3-1 in Pac-10 play. No. 17 USC has a key rematch with No. 21 Arizona State (12-3, 4-1) set for 1:30 p.m. on Friday (April 9) at Marks Stadium. That will be followed by a clash with No. 56 Arizona (12-6, 1-4) at 12 p.m. on Saturday (April 10).

The latest Campbell/ITA national team rankings (as of April 17) have USC ranked No. 17. The latest individual rankings were released March 30. There, Maria Sanchez is up to #2 in the singles nation to lead the Women of Troy, with #26 Alison Ramos settled just outside the nation's top-25. She is followed closely by Trojan freshman #30 Danielle Lao, with fellow freshman Valeria Pulido at #103. In doubles, Lao/Sanchez rank #46 after their first week playing together, while Kinstler/Sanchez are ranked #62 and Pulido/Sanchez rank #63.

USC had an extended stay in the Bay Area last week, with the Trojans' Friday match at Stanford postponed just a game or two into singles play by rain. USC was able to get in a Saturday match at Cal, falling 5-2 to the No. 11 Bears with USC's points coming from freshmen Danielle Lao and Valeria Pulido. The next day, USC resumed its match against the Cardinal and wound up knotted at 3-3 as rain again interrupted action to leave the deciding doubles point unplayed.

Rain in the Bay Area put USC's match at Stanford on hold with the teams locked in a 3-3 tie. Doubles play had been postponed due to the weather, and the Trojans forced the issue thanks in part to a gutsy singles win from #2 Maria Sanchez over Stanford's #8 Hilary Barte at the No. 1 slot. With conference play still very much underway, the USC-Stanford deciding doubles point will be played out in the event that it becomes a determining factor in the 2010 Pac-10 title. That's an entirely likely scenario, as Stanford carries a 3-0 record with a matchup against UCLA still pending, and USC's mark is 3-1. As long as the Trojans stay in stride with the Cardinal the rest of the way, USC can vie for at least a share of the Pac-10 crown -- an accomplishment the Women of Troy won outright last season with an undefeated conference mark.

Arizona State is ranked No. 21 in the nation and is 12-3 overall and 4-1 in Pac-10 play after falling to Stanford 6-1 and upsetting Cal 4-3 in the Sun Devils' last action. ASU has #80 Kelcy McKenna ranked in singles. USC is 42-20 all-time against ASU after taking a 4-3 loss to the Sun Devils earlier this season in Tempe. In that one, USC captured the doubles point to start before singles play extended into five three-setters. Maria Sanchez and Alison Ramos prevailed in their matches, but the Sun Devils managed to pull out three-set wins at the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 positions to go with a win at No. 6 to claim the tight victory.

Arizona is ranked No. 56 in the nation and is 12-6 overall and 1-4 in Pac-10 play after a 6-1 win over LMU and a 5-2 win over Cal State Northridge in nonconference play last week. Arizona lost 7-0 to Cal and 6-1 to Stanford in their most recent Pac-10 competition. The Wildcats have #84 Sarah Landsman and #105 Natasha Marks ranked in singles. USC is 46-15 all-time against Arizona after getting a 5-2 win over the Wildcats last season in Tucson.

The USC men and women swept the March 2 Pac-10 Player of the Week awards thanks to a powerful week of play from junior Maria Sanchez. Ranked #3 in the nation in singles at the time, Sanchez got two more wins in the week, including an impressive upset of California's #2 Jana Juricova. After a smooth 6-2, 6-2 win over San Diego State's #58 Julia Trunk earlier in the week, Sanchez and the then-No. 10 Trojans went up against No. 3 California. Battling it out at the No. 1 singles position, Sanchez and Juricova played out three tough sets. When Juricova answered Sanchez' first-set win by taking the second set, Sanchez pulled ahead 2-0 in the third. Juricova responded to tie it 2-2, but Sanchez blasted out the next three games with a pair of breaks to go up 5-2. Juricova broke her back, but Sanchez had the last word with one more break to claim a strong 6-1, 2-6, 6-3 victory, helping secure the junior's second career Pac-10 Player of the Week selection.

En route to her current #2 singles ranking, Maria Sanchez has faced five different top-10 singles players so far in this 2010 dual-match play, and the junior can claim wins over all five. In that dual-match run, Sanchez has lost to and then beaten Baylor's Lenka Broosova and also holds a split against Cal's Jana Juricova. Sanchez' laundry-list of top-10 takedowns includes: #2 Jana Juricova (Cal), #8 Lenka Broosova (Baylor), #9 Josipa Bek (Clemson), #5 Yasmin Schnack (UCLA) and #8 Hilary Barte (Stanford). After a gutsy win over Washington's #15 Venise Chan, Sanchez moved from #3 to #2 in the nation on March 30. She pushed out to a nine-match win streak before falling to Juricova last week in yet another three-set battle. Sanchez quickly got back in winning mode the following day, however, topping Barte to improve to 24-6 overall with a 15-2 mark in dual-match action.

USC freshmen Danielle Lao and Valeria Pulido have been quick fits into the lineup for the Women of Troy. Lao has battled illness and injury and still stands strong for USC, holding a 20-9 overall singles record and is now 9-6 playing at the competitive No. 3 singles position. Pulido has a booming 24-8 overall singles mark, including a 14-5 dual-match record playing largely at the No. 4 slot. Both are enjoying time in the national rankings, with Lao at #30 and Pulido at #103.

Alison Ramos has leapt into the No. 2 singles position for the majority of USC's dual matches this year, and the sophomore has been holding strong at that competitive spot. She's toting a 22-13 overall singles record and is 11-6 in dual-match play, ranked #26 in the latest singles rankings.

USC's doubles lineup has seen some juggling throughout the year. Before March 26, the tough No. 1 position had seen Maria Sanchez alongside either Lyndsay Kinstler or Valeria Pulido -- both ranked pairings who combined for a 7-7 mark at the top slot. Danielle Lao and Alison Ramos were a strong duo at No. 2 with a 9-2 record at that position. The No. 3 spot had shifted hands, with Cristala Andrews and Pulido joining forces for seven dual matches and a 4-3 mark at the third spot. Once healthy, Sarah Fansler joined with Kinstler, and the pair has posted a 4-2 record in the past six USC dual matches. USC pieced together new pairings at No. 1 and No. 2 starting March 26 to great success, with Lao/Sanchez winning two and earning themselves a ranking of #46 as of March 30, and Pulido/Ramos also getting a pair of wins. As a whole, USC is 11-1 when it has won the doubles point, and is 0-6 when losing the doubles point in dual-match play.

Junior Cristala Andrews earned a spot on the prestigious All-Tournament Team at the ITA National Team Indoors after an undefeated run at the No. 6 singles position during the tourney. She currently holds the most singles wins on the team with a 23-8 overall mark, but has been sidelined by injury for recent matches.

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