Women of Troy open season with higher hopes

Starting right where they left off last year, the women’s tennis team will open their season this weekend  with hopes of not only keeping their No. 9 ranking, but repeating as Pac-10 conference champions.

Start · Junior Christy Andrews and USC open their season today. - Amaresh Sunduran Kuppuswamy Daily Trojan

Four USC players also earned individual singles rankings. Junior Maria Sanchez leads the way by matching her highest career singles ranking at No. 8 in the nation. Freshmen Danielle Lao and Valeria Pulido are ranked No. 18 and 37, respectively, while sophomore Alison Ramos is ranked at No. 39. In the doubles mix, Ramos is paired with Pulido as the No. 19-ranked doubles team.

Last year, the team finished 21-3 overall after a run to the NCAA second round, placing them ninth in the nation. They also went undefeated in Pac-10 play, claiming the 2009 conference title, snapping a 23-year losing streak to Stanford along the way. This helped secure coach Richard Gallien’s selection as the Pac-10 Coach of the Year. Starting his 15th season this year, this was the third time Gallien was selected for this award.

After winning its first ever Pac-10 Championship, the team hopes to repeat its success.

The Pac-10 is one of the toughest conferences in the nation. Although UCLA continues to be the Women of Troy’s biggest rival every year, the conference is especially deep this season.

“Cal and Stanford are also some of our toughest competitors this year,” Lao said.

Cal, ranked No. 3, is the only other Pac-10 team to be ranked in the top 10, followed by UCLA at No. 12 and Stanford at No. 13.

“Our ultimate goal is to win a national title, but, before that, we’re going for another Pac-10 title,” Sanchez said. “If we just keep working hard and keep up our team unity, I think we can do just that.”

USC will kick off its 2010 season today, split between two tournaments from Jan. 14-17. One tourney will be played in Palm Springs, Calif. and the other in Las Vegas. USC’s first dual match play opens at home on Jan. 21 against Long Beach State at Marks Stadium.

To hear Daily Trojan reporter Lindsey Mathias interview Danielle Lao, click here.