The USC women’s tennis team returns to action today with a highly anticipated match against the visiting Cal Golden Bears.
The Women of Troy enter the match ranked No. 6 in the nation with a 15-2 overall record. The team returns home following a successful road trip that saw two Pac-12 victories over Washington and Washington State, respectively. The conference victories put USC at 4-0 in Pac-12 play.
USC is looking for redemption against the Bears. Since losing to Cal last month, the Women of Troy have won seven straight games. Moreover, the game will serve as the rubber match for bragging rights between the two, as USC was victorious over the Bears at the ITA national team indoor championships in Virginia earlier this year. While USC head coach Richard Gallien understands the importance of treating every match the same, he knows that certain matches hold more weight on a team’s psyche than others.
“Inherently, [the team knows] there are important matches,” Gallien said. “We don’t have that many matches, so we try to play as hard as we can regardless of who it is.”
Following the Cal match, the Women of Troy will square off against Stanford. With only a handful of matches left before Pac-12 tournament play begins near the end of next month, the team is attempting to round into form for a potential NCAA championship tournament run. Winning against the Bears and the Cardinal, both ranked in the top 10, would go a long way in doing just that.
“I felt like we were sort of struggling at the beginning of the year,” Gallien said. “We were doing real well but didn’t have much to show for it … and then we beat UCLA at UCLA. Winning … matches rewards ourselves for our hard work. At the very least it shows ourselves that we are very hard to beat.”
While the team as a whole attempts to continue its success, many of the individuals have already proven that 2013 has been a great campaign for them. Sophomore Zoë Scandalis was recently awarded Pac-12 player of the week for her performance during the week of March 11-17, which included dominating solo victories against Texas, Colorado and Utah. With her award, she became the sixth member of the team to be given the award.
The Women of Troy also continue to do well in the individual rankings released by the ITA. Sophomore Sabrina Santamaria ranks second in the nation in singles play while senior Danielle Lao, a model of consistency, is ranked No. 7. In terms of doubles play, USC continues to boast the top-ranked doubles duo in the nation in Santamaria and junior Kaitlyn Christian.
Gallien has been most impressed by his girls’ individual success in spite of a laser focus on achieving team goals.
“They want so desperately to win this team title in an individual sport,” Gallien said. “I give them credit for blending in and trying to put individual goals aside. They’ve just been really great.”
The match against the Bears is set to start at 1:30 p.m. at Marks Stadium.