After a strong showing this past weekend in Tempe at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Kick-Off Weekend, where the 16th-ranked Women of Troy clinched a spot in the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, USC (3-0) will look to stay in top form as they face St. Mary’s today followed by a match against Pepperdine on Saturday.
“We have two challenging matches ahead against St. Mary’s and Pepperdine coming in ranked as well, but I just have confidence that the girls are going to show up and play big,” USC coach Richard Gallien said. “There is a big difference between going through the motions and understanding what is at stake; with only only seven eligible players these girls are tight-knit group, who really worked hard, and look like they truly enjoy it.”
Earning a place in the ITA Indoor Championships, which are Feb. 10 – 13 at the University of Virginia, is a big step for a green USC squad, especially since they missed out on the tournament last season.
“Next week we may end up playing three teams in the top 10 in the country [in the ITA tournament] and it will be a big challenge for us,” Gallien said. “I really feel confident that our girls are going to ante up and spill their guts out.”
The Women of Troy will be starting their weekend against a talented Lady Gaels team, which is coming off of a tough 4-0 loss to the UCLA Bruins in the ITA Kick-Off. The day prior, though, St. Mary’s took down No. 25 Oklahoma behind sophomore Jenny Jullien.
Jullien, who will be slated for the No. 2 spot against USC junior Danielle Lao, ranks No. 68 in the nation for singles. Along with fellow sophomore Jade Frampton, Jullien was named the West Coast Conference Doubles Duo of the Month after going 8-1 in October.
In the top spot for singles, St. Mary’s will throw out two-time WCC first-timer junior Catherine Isip. Though Isip may not be currently ranked, she started out at No. 59 in the Fall Rankings and remains a threat for USC freshman Zoë Scandalis.
After facing off against St. Mary’s, the Women of Troy will welcome the No. 26 Pepperdine Waves (1-0) into Marks Stadium on Saturday.
Pepperdine will be looking for a much-needed victory against USC, something that hasn’t happened since 2001, with an extremely difficult upcoming schedule with games against No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Stanford.
The Women of Troy boast four players among the nation’s top 100 singles players, led by freshman Sabrina Santamaria at No. 18 followed closely by Scandalis at No. 19. Lao and sophomore Kaitlyn Christian round out the rest of the group at No. 42 and No. 99 respectively.
“Even after I gave them Monday off, I got a phone call that at 9 o’clock, Zoe and Sabrina are out hitting,” Gallein said. “In basketball they say you can’t teach height, in tennis you can’t teach hunger and drive.“
While there may be a dearth of experience on Gallien’s squad, especially at the top of both doubles and singles, there is no denying the immense talent on the team. Despite having three freshman among the top 6 singles players (Scandalis, Santamaria, and Gabriella DeSimone), expectations are high for the Women of Troy after a very encouraging fall season.
“We’re very young, but very mature,” Gallien said. “The three girls starting right now are hungry, motivated, and dedicated. They really put a spring in everyone’s step and are not afraid of playing in big situations.”