No. 20 USC Women Open NCAA Run In Berkeley

May 11, 2010

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The USC women's tennis team has its focus on postseason play once again as the Trojans set up for their 19th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Women's Tennis Championships. This year, USC will open its NCAA run with a road trip to Berkeley, host site for four teams in the NCAA First and Second Rounds. Up for grabs in Berkeley next weekend - May 14-15 - is a ticket to the NCAA Round of 16 and beyond, with the remainder of NCAA action continuing in Athens, Ga. from May 20-25. The Trojans' first steps in this year's NCAA competition put USC (13-9) up against Sacramento State (19-6) in the NCAA First Round at 10 a.m. on Friday (May 14) at the Hellman Tennis Complex. Host California (18-5) is a No. 12 seed and will face Southern (12-5) for the right to move into the NCAA Second Round at 12 p.m. on Saturday (May 15) in Berkeley.

Ranked No. 20 in the nation, the USC women are coming off a fourth-place finish in the competitive Pac-10, which has six teams heading to the NCAA Championships this year. The Trojans' trip to the 2010 postseason marks their 29th overall appearance in the NCAA team tournament. USC now holds a 57-26 all-time record in NCAA Tournament play and boasts seven national championships. The 1983 and 1984 crowns both were NCAA titles, as the NCAA began its women's tennis championships in 1982.

The NCAA First and Second Round matches this week in Berkeley, Calif., will have live scoring updates as well as live video available. CLICK HERE to access the live updates.

USC has three players set to perform on NCAA tennis' historic stage this month, with singles and doubles selections to the coming NCAA Individual Championships at Georgia's Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga., from May 26-31. In the women's bracket, Maria Sanchez, Alison Ramos and Danielle Lao have each earned a spot in the NCAA singles competition. Leading the charge for the USC women this season has been junior Maria Sanchez, who has been ranked in the nation's top-3 for much of the year. Currently No. 3 in the nation, she has picked up the No. 3 seed for the coming NCAA Singles competition, and she holds a 26-7 overall singles record as the Trojans enter the postseason. This is Sanchez' second straight trip to the NCAA Singles Championships, as she appeared in the first round last year as a sophomore. Making their first career appearances in the NCAA Individual Championships are sophomore Alison Ramos and Danielle Lao, who have been ranked as singles players in the nation's top-40 throughout the year. Currently, Ramos ranks No. 31 in the nation and holds a 25-15 overall singles mark. Lao ranks No. 37 and is 22-10 overall in singles in her first year as a Trojan.

The latest Campbell/ITA national team rankings (as of May 3) have USC ranked No. 20. The latest individual rankings also were released May 3. There, Maria Sanchez is ranked #3 in the singles nation to lead the Women of Troy. #31 Alison Ramos is next on the list, followed closely by Trojan freshman #37 Danielle Lao, and fellow freshman Valeria Pulido at #112. In doubles, Pulido/Sanchez rank #61, while Lao/Sanchez rank #64 and Kinstler/Sanchez are ranked #81.

In USC's NCAA visit last year, the Women of Troy were the automatic qualifiers from the conference after USC won its first Pac-10 Championship. The No. 7-seeded Trojans reached the 2009 NCAA Second Round and were tripped up by Washington to close down USC's season with a 21-3 overall record and ranked No. 9 in the nation.

Sacramento State (19-6) earned its automatic bid into the NCAA Championships by winning the Big Sky Conference championship for the ninth straight season. Head coach Dima Hrynashka was named Big Sky Coach of the Year. Sacramento State is led by Big Sky MVP Tatsiana Kapshai and all-conference honorees Maria Meliuk, Clarisse Baca and Rebeca Delgado. The Hornets are ranked #55 in the nation as a team and have Katrina Zheltova ranked #27 in the nation in singles. The Hornets have fallen in the NCAA First Round for the past eight seasons. USC is 1-0 all-time against Sacramento State, with the teams' lone meeting coming in the 2003 NCAA First Round, when the Trojans advanced with a 4-0 win.

CALIFORNIA -- No. 12 seed Cal is 18-5 overall and ranks #12 as a team with #2 Jana Juricova, #18 Marina Cossou and #35 Mari Andersson ranked in singles and #9 Andersson/Juricova and #89 Cossou/Siwosz ranked in doubles. USC is 31-27 all-time against the Bears after taking two losses to Cal this season. The Trojans fell 5-2 to the Bears in Los Angeles and dropped another 5-2 decision to Cal in Berkeley during Pac-10 competition.
SOUTHERN-- SWAC champion Southern is 12-5 overall and currently has no ranked singles players or doubles teams. USC has never before faced Southern in dual-match play.

The Pac-10 title race became a murky scene this season when NorCal rains washed out key conference decisions in early April between USC and Stanford and between UCLA and Cal. The Trojans' defense of their 2009 Pac-10 Championship was knocked off course by losses to Cal and UCLA this season, but USC still factored into the overall race after its match at Stanford was suspended with things knotted up 3-3 in singles play in Palo Alto. The weather interrupted USC's momentum that day toward an aim at snapping the Cardinal's 11-year home win streak. But because the match result still factored into a possible shared conference crown, USC and Stanford got back to action to finish out their deciding doubles point before tournament play began at the Pac-10 Championships in Ojai, Calif. Squaring off in Ojai to close out a contest still considered a Stanford home match, the Cardinal kept their streak intact with a doubles sweep that left the No. 18 Women of Troy with a 4-3 loss to move to 13-9 overall and finish Pac-10 play at 5-3. Stanford claimed the 2010 Pac-10 crown outright with the win.

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 #3 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 lost to and then beat 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 in yet another three-set battle. Sanchez quickly got back in winning mode the following day, however, topping Barte at Stanford. She now ranks #3 in the nation and is 26-7 overall with a 17-3 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 22-10 overall singles record and is now 11-7 playing at the competitive No. 3 singles position. Pulido leads her teammates in total singles wins with a booming 27-10 overall singles mark, including a 17-5 dual-match record playing largely at the No. 4 slot. Both are enjoying time in the national rankings, with Lao at #37 and Pulido at #112.

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 25-15 overall singles record and is 13-7 in dual-match play, ranked #31 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 5-5 record in the past 10 USC dual matches. USC pieced together new pairings at No. 1 and No. 2 starting March 26, with Lao/Sanchez having gone 4-3 together and earning themselves a ranking of #63. Pulido/Ramos also have joined forces at No. 2 and hold a 3-4 mark. As a whole, USC is 13-1 when it has won the doubles point, and is 0-8 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. Sidelined by injury for over a month of dual-match play, she returned to action last week. Andrews currently holds a 23-9 overall singles record

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