After splitting last week’s pair of matches, the No. 13 USC women’s tennis team heads into the thick of its Pac-10 schedule.
First up for the Women of Troy (11-3, 1-0) is a match with No. 10 California (11-4, 2-0) today as they look to avenge last year’s two defeats, one of which knocked USC out of the NCAA tournament.
Senior Maria Sanchez in particular will have her hands full with Juricova, who was the 2009 ITA National Indoor Championship singles champion. Held out of last year’s NCAA tournament because of a wrist injury, the Slovakian hasn’t missed a beat this season and represents the kind of top competition Sanchez will have to face in her quest to win a national title.
Despite last week’s troubles, Sanchez ran through the competition, breezing through ASU’s No. 17 Kelcy McKenna, to record her 22nd consecutive singles win.
Sophomore Danielle Lao has seen her play slip as of late because of some elbow discomfort, even sitting out the Syracuse match. Lao looks to rebound from her previous matches when she faces Cal’s Davis, as well as Stanford’s Nicole Gibbs or Mallory Burdette, who currently sit at No. 11 and No. 29, respectively.
No. 2 Stanford (14-0, 2-0) boasts a total of five singles players ranked among the nation’s best, more than either USC or Cal.
Jousting with No. 1 Sanchez all year, among the nation’s top singles player, No. 2 Hilary Barte, also a senior, has a chance to make her case for the top spot Saturday.
Freshman Kaitlyn Christian, who had her first win in second singles last week, will have to continue her strong play over the weekend if the Women of Troy have any hope to squeeze out victories against their two top-10 opponents.
Facing arguably her toughest competition this season (along with UCLA’s Andrea Remynse), Christian will have to display the type of poise that has garnered her continual praise from Gallien in order to be successful against Cal and Stanford.
At the back end of singles, junior Alison Ramos and senior Cristala Andrews might not know exactly who they will face, as Stanford has shuffled around their lineup all season long, but they can rest assured it will be top competition.
“It’s a tough one this weekend,” Gallien said. “We match up really well with Stanford and it’s good to play them at home.”