USC off to Virginia for ITA National Indoors on Friday
Riding a four-game winning streak, the USC womenâs tennis team is set to face off against host team Virginia in the first round of the ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships in Charlottesville, Va. this weekend.
Seeded third in the tournament behind UCLA and Duke, the Women of Troy (4-0) have a tough draw in the opening round against a Cavaliers team that will have heavy support from the crowd. Heading into the match, USC is looking to record its fifth straight shutout in as many games this season, which would mark the first time that has happened since 1982.
âVirginia is a tough, challenging team, and they really match up well against us and it should be a good match,â USC head coach Richard Gallien said. âWeâre healthy physically and mentally, and we are ready to go out there.â
Last season, the Women of Troy also came into the ITA National Indoors undefeated (5-0) but were seeded at No. 16 in the tournament. After upsetting No. 8 North Carolina in the first round, USC would make it all the way to the semifinals â the first time that had happened since 2003 â before bowing out against UCLA.
On the doublesâ side, junior Kaitlyn Christian and sophomore Sabrina Santamaria have won two consecutive ITA National Indoor Doubles titles and currently sit at the top of the national rankings.
Virginia will present a stiff test for the Women of Troy, not only because of the home field advantage, but because of their ability to match up with USC in both singles and doubles. Led by freshman Julia Elbaba, who currently ranks No. 4 in the nation, the Cavaliers also boast a pair of ranked players in Stephanie Nauta and Li Xi, who sit at No. 43 and 44, respectively.
Nauta and Xi form one of the nationâs best doubles tandems and their No. 10 ranking is indicative of their strong play, which includes a trip to the finals of the 2012 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships where they fell to Christian and Santamaria. Though the pair of Erin Vierra and Maci Epstein did not make it as far in the 2012 USTA/ITA Indoor Championships, they are ranked higher nationally, at No. 5, than their teammates.
Virginia automatically qualified for the tournament because of their status as the host team. The Cavaliers have played just one match so far this spring, defeating VCU 5-2.
The Women of Troy will counter the Virginia attack with a quartet of ranked singles players as well, led by senior Danielle Lao. Though the rankings have not changed, the new polls this month should see a rise for each of the girls. Sophomore standout Giuliana Olmos, in particular, might see her name attached to a ranking this time around.
The Jan. 29 Pac-12 player of the week has shined brightly in USCâs strong start to the year, and Gallien has been extremely impressed with her hard-nosed style of play. Already returning a strong lineup from last season, the addition of Olmos helps make USC a NCAA title contender.
With a win against Virginia, the Women of Troy will play against either Texas A&M or have a rematch with No. 6 North Carolina in the next round.
âThereâs no one in this tournament who can bully us,â Gallien said. âWe just need to go out and play to our ability.â