Senior Maria Sanchez and freshman Kaitlyn Christian etched their names in the USC record books, as they became the first pairing in program history to advance to the semifinals of the NCAA doubles championship.
But when they got there, Clemson’s Josipa Bek and Keri Wong proved to be too much, putting an end to Sanchez and Christian’s stellar doubles campaign.
“When they are playing their very best, I don’t think anyone beats them,” said USC coach Richard Gallien. “It wasn’t a slam dunk that they would win, but I wasn’t surprised that we were in the semifinals.”
Sanchez also expressed happiness at making it so far in the tournament with Christian.
“It was exciting making it to the semis,” she said. “It was a tough match we lost, but overall we had a good season together and I really enjoyed playing with her.”
Sanchez also competed in the singles competition of the tournament, facing off against Baylor’s Diana Nakic in the first round.
The match was delayed almost two hours because of rain. Despite the circumstances, the senior managed to eke out a victory.
Though shaky in the first set, the ITA National Senior Player of the Year and Pac-10 Player of the Year came back to win the second and third sets 6-2. This put Sanchez up against California’s Mari Andersson in the following day.
Sophomore Danielle Lao also beat her opponent from Baylor, Sona Novakoya, in the first round. Lao’s win 6-2, 6-4 moved her in to the round of 32 to face Stanford’s Nicole Gibbs.
But after successful first rounds of play, Sanchez and Lao’s singles journeys ended in the second round.
“Lao had an excellent win,” Gallien said. “She beat the number one girl from Baylor. Maria had such a great year and didn’t play her best tennis. It doesn’t change anything about her wonderful year.”
Sanchez lost to Andersson in two sets, 6-2, 6-3, ending her singles run with USC, as she finished with an overall career singles record of 116-36 and a season record of 36-5.
Lao’s match against Gibbs did not fare much better, with the sophomore suffering a 6-2, 6-1 loss. Lao finished her season with a 26-13 overall record and was also honored as an All-Pac-10 Second Team selection and won the ITA Southwest Regional Singles Champion this season.
With play over this season, the Women of Troy hope things will only get better from here.
“I think they are going to be really tough in the future,” Sanchez said. “They have some good recruits coming in. I’m excited to see how they do.”