The No. 16 USC women’s tennis team dropped a 6-1 decision to No. 7 UCLA on Friday afternoon in a crucial Pac-10 conference showdown for both teams at the Los Angeles Tennis Center.
With Friday’s loss, the Women of Troy (13-8, 5-2) are eliminated from the Pac-10 title contention.
UCLA (19-3, 6-1) came out strong, snagging a doubles sweep to start the day off. The Bruins secured an 8-5 win at No. 2 as UCLA’s No. 77-ranked duo of Noelle Hickey and Nina Pantic topped sophomore Alison Ramos and freshman Valeria Pulido.
Meanwhile, the other two matches on courts one and three remained close. At the third court, USC’s duo of senior Sarah Fansler and junior Lyndsay Kinstler evened the score after being down 1-3, but couldn’t complete the comeback and fell 9-7.
The doubles point was already secured when the match on court one was tied 6-6. From there, UCLA No. 4 pair of Andrea Remynse and Yasmin Schnack put away USC’s No. 55 duo of freshman Danielle Lao and junior Maria Sanchez 8-6.
With UCLA up 1-0 heading into singles, the Bruins held the momentum and managed to claim the first set on five of six courts, en route to taking three consecutive singles matches to seal their victory.
USC was held to straight-set losses on the back two courts, putting UCLA ahead 3-0, and just one victory away from taking the match from its crosstown rival.
No. 24 Ramos was the only player for USC to take the first set from her Bruin opponent, as she cruised to 6-1 on court three over No. 51 Hickey. Ramos beat Hickey in straight sets the last time the teams met.
But Ramos couldn’t keep up this time and ended up winning just two games for the remainder of the match. Hickey posted a 1-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory over Ramos, which gave UCLA the 4-0 lead as well as the secured match.
USC earned its sole point of the day with an impressive comeback victory on court four by No. 100 Pulido. Pulido lost the first set rather quickly at 0-6, but won the next two sets in hard-fought tiebreakers.
The No. 3 singles player in the nation, USC’s Sanchez was topped by No. 8 Schnack on the first court. Sanchez seemed like she had the upper hand after going up 5-0 in the first set. But from there, Schnack won seven straight games to edge out Sanchez in the first set 7-5. Schnack also won the next set and notched another 7-5 in the second set.
The No. 3 match was still under way with UCLA’s No. 26 Remynse and USC’s No. 28 Lao competing in the final singles match of the day. Lao was hoping to avenge her loss to Remynse from earlier this season. Remynse had taken that match clinching point in three sets, when the teams were tied 3-3, which had given the Bruins the win.
But yet again, it was Remynse who snagged the victory, polishing off Lao 7-5, 6-1 to close out the match for a dominant 6-1 win for the Bruins.
“It was a really tough loss. We were very disappointed, but we know we all tried our best,” Pulido said. “Now, we are just trying to move on and stay positive. We need to stay focused. We can’t let this loss affect our performance for next week.”
The Women of Troy head to Ojai, Calif., this week for individual singles and doubles action at the Pac-10 championships. First, they will get to finish their match versus No. 10 Stanford on Wednesday at 11 a.m. Their April 2 match was suspended because of rain.
If Stanford wins, the Cardinal will improve to 8-0 and capture the Pac-10 crown. If USC wins, UCLA must face No. 12 California as its April 2 match was also cancelled by rain. If the Bruins win, then it will share the Pac-10 title with Stanford.
“We still have a lot left of the season,” Sanchez said. “Everyone is going to go into Ojai working on their game and trying to best prepare themselves for the upcoming NCAAs.”