New women’s tennis head coach begins a new era

Women’s tennis has kicked off the season with a splash, clinching the home opener against University of San Diego, 6-1. Despite the departure of long-time head coach Richard Gallien, his replacement  Alison Swain started a new era on the right track. Swain, who led her previous team at Williams College to eight NCAA Division III championships and a 224-28 record, has large shoes to fill. Although the Women of Troy never made it to the finals under Gallien, he still held an impressive 367-144 record at USC.

According to the USC Trojans website, Swain plans to take her new position step-by-step as she works with her new team. “I think our immediate goal is about process,” she said. “It’s about creating a structure for our players to be successful and develop on-court as players, and then it’s about creating a great team culture.”

Women’s tennis ended the 2016-17 season 13-11, but fell to University of Denver in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The tennis team looks to make an even stronger showing this season with returning nationally-ranked ITA singles and doubles players.

Among them is senior captain Gabby Smith, who enters the season ranked No. 35 in the country. In 2017, she had a record of 23-9 in singles play, whose matches helped secure an upset against UCLA and a win against LMU. Senior Madison Westby ended last season with a 24-13 singles record and claimed the No. 85 slot. Junior Rianna Valdes and sophomore Angela Kulikov also carved spots on the national rankings for doubles at No. 46. Valdes and Kulikov had a 3-0 record in the fall.

This season, the women’s tennis team welcomes three new Trojans. Freshman Alexa Corcoleotes comes to USC as the No. 39 player in her class, with a Gold Ball in doubles at the 2016 Women’s Grass Court Nationals and a Silver Ball in the 2016 Women’s Hard Court Nationals.

The team also brings on two transfer students. Sophomore Constance Branstine joins the women’s tennis team after completing a year at UC Irvine, and sophomore Rebecca Weissmann arrives after a year at Louisiana State.

Branstine played No. 1 singles and doubles at UCI, and was selected to play singles in the 2017 All-Big West First Team. Weissmann played No. 5 singles and No. 2 doubles, and was ranked as high as 12th in the nation in high school.

Hopes are high for the upcoming season as the Women of Troy have already had a promising start, even before their first game. They opened up the season with two trophies from the Battle of the Bay under their belt.

Weissmann proved her worth by winning the Women’s Open Singles and another trophy with Kulikov, her doubles partner from the Women’s Doubles Open Championship.

The USC women’s tennis team dominated USD on Sunday, winning all three doubles matches and only dropping one in singles. Swain told USC Athletics that she was pleased with her team’s performance.

“I thought today was a great opening match for our program,” Swain said. “I was really proud of how much we fought and stayed focus throughout the whole match, regardless of the score. Most importantly we competed as a team today, which was our goal.”

This weekend, the women’s tennis team finishes up their three-game home-stand as they take on LMU on Jan. 19 at 1:30 p.m., and UCSB on Jan. 20 at 10 a.m. Neither school is ranked in the top 25, but LMU boasts two nationally-ranked freshmen on their roster.