USC women’s tennis survived their most difficult weekend of matches this season as they split their road trip up north losing to Stanford on Friday before rallying for a victory against Cal on Saturday.
Ranked No. 4 in the country, USC (19-3, 8-1) squared off against fellow top-10 teams with the undefeated Stanford Cardinal and their unblemished 16-win season ranked sixth and the Golden Bears and their No. 10 ranking.
Pitting two teams with perfect records in conference play, something had to give in the Women of Troy’s matchup against the Cardinal. Behind their strong play at the top of singles, Stanford was able to pull out a 4-2 winner capped off by No. 3 Nicole Gibbs’ two-set victory over freshman Zoe Scandalis.
Slotted in the first singles’ position from the start of the season, Scandalis, who sits at No. 20 in the country, has consistently played against other teams’ top talent and overall she has faired relatively well under the pressure, especially when you consider her young age. This weekend hit her particularly hard as the freshman went up against the nation’s top singles players in Gibbs and Cal’s 8th-ranked Jana Juricova.
In the first set against Gibbs, Scandalis fought the Stanford sophomore into a tiebreaker before bowing out 7-6 (4) and then went on to lose the second set in another gritty performance 6-2. Despite the losses, both Scandalis and coach Richard Gallien have to be pleased with how she’s held up so far this season.
With doubles’ play suspended because of weather conditions, the Women of Troy had to fight that much harder during singles and Stanford’s depth was the driving force behind their success. On court four, No. 57 Ellen Tay easily took down sophomore Kaitlyn Christian to start off singles’ play.
Christian’s loss, plus 23rd-ranked junior Danielle Lao losing a rare match on court two to Stanford’s 7th-ranked Mallory Burdette, made it difficult for the Women of Troy to ever gain momentum during the match. Despite a valiant effort from freshman No. 33 Sabrina Santamaria and senior Alison Ramos, who eac posted wins, USC could not overcome their losses at the top.
On Saturday, the Women of Troy won in their trademark fashion with a 5-3 comeback victory against Cal. Despite losing the doubles’ point after a surprising defeat on court one for the No. 7 Christian and Santamaria pairing, USC stayed strong even after singles began with Scandalis’ loss to Juricova 6-1, 6-0.
On cue, though, the Women of Troy came roaring back recording wins in their usual spots in the heart of their lineup. Junior Danielle Lao got back to her winning ways with an upset victory against No. 12 Zsofi Susanyi, 6-2, 7-5, on court two, and Santmaria made it two wins for the weekend after a win over Anett Schutting in third singles.
Capping off four wins in a row, Kaitlyn Christian recovered form her previos day’s drubbing to beat the higher-ranked No. 55 Tayler Davis 7-6 (3), 6-3 on court four and the clincher came from junior Valeria Pulido with a three-set win in a surprise start at six.
With Stanford losing to UCLA on Saturday, next week’s matchup against the rival Bruins is an important game for the breakdown fo the Pac-12 standings. The Women of Troy will have more than just pride to fight for when they head to Westwood in a battle looking to redeem their early season losses.