No. 19 USC begins season with tournament play

The No. 19 USC women’s tennis team will compete this weekend at two competitions to kick off its season: the Freeman Memorial Women’s Tennis Championships hosted by the University of Nevada, in Las Vegas and the National Colliegate Tennis Classic in La Quinta, Calif.

The Women of Troy will be competing against some of the best teams in the country at the Freeman Memorial tournament: No. 1 Stanford, No. 2 Florida, No. 5 UCLA and No. 6 North Carolina will all be participating.

Despite many higher ranked opponents participating, senior Maria Sanchez tops the singles lineup at this weekend’s competition in Las Vegas, ranking third in the nation in singles. Freshmen Kaitlyn Christian and Hayley Miller and senior Cristala Andrews will also be participating at the Freeman Memorial competition.

At the NCTC, the first major invitational college tournament of the season, both men’s and women’s programs from across the country will participate in what is known as “the Wimbledon of College Tennis.” The competition features the top six men’s and women’s teams, along with top-ranked individual players from the leading universities across the country.

Sophomore Danielle Lao, the ITA Southwest Regional champion in the fall and ranked No. 10 nationally, along with sophomore Valeria Pulido, junior Alison Ramos and senior Lyndsay Kinstler will represent USC at the NCTC.

The team is hopeful that these tournaments, their last individual ones this season, will be successful.

“Our belief in one another has never been stronger and with that alone we’ve put ourselves in a great position to compete the best we can, whether it’s in this individual tournament coming up or a dual match,” Lao said.

After the Freeman Memorial and NCTC, the Women of Troy will begin dual season, which they are anticipating will go well based on their performances so far this season. In 2010, the team reached the NCAA tournament once again, finishing the year 14-10 overall.

“[The NCTC] is our last individual tournament for a while. This will serve as tune-up before the dual matches begin,” Ramos said. “I can’t wait to get going with the tournament so that we can go into dual season fine-tuned and prepared.”

After this weekend’s competitions, the team will look towards Jan. 18, its next opportunity to compete, where it will face Cal State Northridge in a dual meet at USC’s own Mark’s Stadium.

“We’re excited for the spring to start and couldn’t be hungrier to do well,” Lao said.