Women of Troy start pre-qualifying rounds at UCLA

This weekend, seven members of the Women of Troy tennis team will take part in one of the most rigorous tennis tournaments they’ll compete in all season. The pre-qualifying rounds of the ITA/Riviera Women’s All-American Championships begin Saturday at UCLA, and the entire women’s tennis team will be representing USC.

To make it past the pre-qualifying rounds of the tournament, players must win three matches in a row. To advance beyond the qualifying rounds, players must win another three matches in a row, taking them to the top 16, where a single loss means elimination from the tournament.

In the past, USC has performed well at the Riviera tournament. Last year, sophomore Danielle Lao won seven matches in a row and made it to one of the top tiers of the tournament. This year, chances look good for her and many of her teammates as well.

“The All-American is a very tough tournament, and just because you do well one year it doesn’t mean you’ll do that great the next. My teammates are really motivated so I think they’ll do well,” Lao said.

Coach Richard Gallien is also looking forward to the tournament, and expressed his happiness about the team’s preparedness.

“Our girls are really ready to compete and this early in the season it makes me happy … Maria [Sanchez] has a chance to go far. Danielle was almost to the top eighth last year,” Gallien said.

Entry into the Riviera Championships is a difficult task, and not many schools are able to send every player from their tennis team to compete. USC, on the other hand, is completing a rare feat by sending all seven of its starting players.

“We are basically getting the whole team in and not many schools can say that,” assistant coach West Cott said.

This tournament, like most others during the beginning of the season, is more about individual performance rather than the performance of the team as a whole. The Women of Troy will begin competing against other schools in the Pac-10 in March, so tournaments leading up to the start of the conference season are useful for improving players’ individual rankings, though not for improving the team’s ranking as whole.

“Every school is going to be there, but really you’re just competing for yourself and for your school,” Cott said.

Lao is certain that the team’s first tournament together will be a good one.

“Right now I’m really confident in how well we’ll do, and I’m looking forward to seeing some good results and maybe even some upsets from my teammates,” Lao said.

After the pre-qualifying rounds at UCLA, play will take place in Pacific Palisades, CA. The tournament is set to continue until October 10th.