Championship dreams now alive for only three

Stunned and eliminated by No. 32 Washington last weekend in the second round of  the NCAA tournament, the No. 7 Women of Troy’s dreams of a team championship will remain just that — a dream. 

Three individual players, however, will advance to College Station, Texas, in hopes of bringing home a singles championship.  

The loss to Washington was a heartbreaker to say the least. The Huskies leapt out to an early lead in doubles and despite several comeback efforts by the Women of Troy, the deficit proved too large to overcome and the Huskies took the doubles point. 

Singles was a similar story, with the Huskies taking an early advantage over the Women of Troy. Again, several comeback efforts brought the Women of Troy to a 3-3 draw with Washington, but the Huskies outlasted them, capturing the final singles match and the 4-3 victory. 

“Obviously they are not a pushover team,” said senior Amanda Fink. “I’m just grateful I’ve gotten to be a part of a lot of really special things this year.” 

The elimination from team play had one benefit for the senior.

“Being eliminated meant I got to go to graduation so it was sort if bittersweet,” Fink said.

Despite the disappointment in team play, Fink, sophomore Maria Sanchez and junior Sarah Fansler will all try their hands at the singles crown this week. 

The tournament will begin on Wednesday with a field of 64 players Ranked among the top in the nation, an NCAA championship is not a far cry for any of the three players representing USC. 

Fink, who sits the highest in the rankings at No. 22, is the lone senior and veteran of the program. Fink enters the tournament with an impressive résumé and a series of accolades. 

Most recently she earned regional honors as Intercollegiate Tennis Association Senior Player of the Year. Just more than a week before that she received her third All-Pac-10 First Team selection. 

Fink, who is 35-7 this season, has also received Pac-10 Player of the Week honors this season and is on a 24-match winning streak entering the tournament. Fink made it to the quarterfinals last year before being eliminated. 

For Fink, maintaining her physical well-being throughout the tournament is of most importance.

“Basically rest and liquid are key,” she said. 

Sanchez sits right behind Fink in the rankings at No. 23. Despite battling injury for much of the season, Sanchez has enjoyed much success of her own, including key upsets for the Women of Troy. 

“I just have to go out there and grind out every match, even if I’m not playing my best tennis that day,” Sanchez said.

She has earned Pac-10 Player of the Week honors and her first career Pac-10 selection landing a spot on the All-Pac-10 Second Team. Sanchez is 24-10 overall entering the tournament. 

When asked if there was any player in particular she would like to face off with in the tournament, Sanchez simply answered, “I want to play the number one seed, whoever that is.” 

The final USC competitor, Fansler, comes in ranked at No. 42. Like Fink and Sanchez, Fansler has also picked up a Pac-10 Player of the Week honor this season. She enters the tournament with a 21-13 record and is riding a three-match winning streak.  

This time around, all three Women of Troy are looking for success regardless of who they play in the first round — brackets for the singles tournament have not yet been released.

As far as a team championship, Fink is confident the team she is leaving behind can find success in the future. 

“We had one of the best teams I’ve ever seen here, but we live and we learn and hopefully the girls next year can learn from the experience,” she said.