After snagging its first Pac-10 Championship last season, the USC women’s tennis team again boasts a top-notch roster for this upcoming season.
The team will have six returning players this season, with the addition of two freshmen, Valeria Pulido and Danielle Lao.
“Even though we lost two key players, we gained two very young and talented girls,” sophomore Alison Ramos said. “We have a really strong recruiting class and I’m excited to see the huge impact they’ll have on our success.”
Coach Richard Gallien, who will be entering his 15th season with the Women of Troy, said the team worked out and competed in tournaments throughout the entire summer.
“We had no off-season,” Gallien said.
USC finished 21-3 overall last season after a run to the NCAA Second Round, placing them ninth in the nation. Gallien said he hopes to build on the success again this year, but that it might take some adjustments.
“With these new faces and our returning players, we will need to see how all the pieces fit in order to find the right combinations,” Gallien said.
Just this month, three women on the singles and two doubles teams earned ITA Preseason Rankings. Junior Maria Sanchez holds the highest ranking on the team with the No. 17 spot in singles. Senior Sarah Fansler has been ranked at No. 30 and Ramos has been ranked at No. 53. In the doubles mix, Fansler is paired up with her teammate from last season, junior Lyndsay Kinstler, as the No. 26-ranked doubles team, while Sanchez and Pulido together are ranked at No. 47.
“Preseason ranking doesn’t mean a whole lot — it’s just a number,” Sanchez said. “We still have to go out and compete with the same teams regardless of our ranking.”
USC’s No. 1 doubles team graduated from the roster last year, so the Women of Troy will need to work on filling the slots for their three doubles teams. Ramos describes this as the “one and only obstacle” for the team right now.
“The doubles point is really important in every match since it determines which team carries the momentum,” Ramos added.
Either way, the team — which has one of the longest seasons of any team on campus because of individual tournaments in the fall followed by team tennis in the spring — will kick off its fall competition this weekend. Four of the Trojan players will compete in the Cal Nike Invitational at Berkeley this weekend while the remaining players will begin a two-week long tournament, the 2009-10 Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championships.
Newcomer Lao will start her tournament play Saturday in the pre-qualifying round at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. The next rounds will be held at the Riviera Country Club. Fansler and Ramos will begin play on Oct. 6 and Oct. 7 in the qualifying rounds while Sanchez will play on Oct. 8.
Gallien said he was looking forward to the season ahead.
“Tennis is [a] strange sport. It’s not like we have a new defense to put in this year.” Gallien said. “But every season is different, which makes it very exciting. As long as we repeat how much energy we put in last fall, then the energy and enthusiasm will carry over to this upcoming season and we’ll be ready when the season goes.”