All-USC final seals sweep of tournament

Monday was a triumphant day for the USC women’s tennis team as it took home both the singles and doubles championship crowns at the ITA Southwest Regional Championships.

Winning stroke · Sophomore Danielle Lao won the ITA Southwest Regional singles championship after defeating senior Maria Sanchez in the final round. The Women of Troy had five singles players and three doubles teams make it to at least the round of 32. - Photo courtesy of USC Sports Information

Sophomore Danielle Lao defeated her fellow Trojan senior Maria Sanchez to earn the singles crown, while the team of junior Alison Ramos and sophomore Valeria Pulido came out on top in doubles.

“The whole team did great and we really stepped up this year,” Lao said. “We just swept the whole tournament, and if we look at the top of the draw it was all ’SC.”

The team started off strong in the tournament, which began Thursday and was hosted by the University of San Diego and San Diego State, with five Women of Troy making it to the round of 32 in singles after the first day of play. Three teams made it through to the round of 32 in the doubles category on opening day as well, giving USC a strong presence in the top tiers of the tournament.

“This tournament proved that hard work does pay off. This was a difficult draw with UCLA, ASU, University of Arizona and other good schools, and we ended up on top in singles and in doubles,” Ramos said. “That’s a huge confidence booster for our team, and it really makes a bold statement to other teams out there — we are going to be the team to beat.”

As the tournament progressed, top-seeded Sanchez and Lao both made it to the semifinals of the singles tournament and, after defeating their respective opponents from UCLA, found themselves facing each other in the championship round.

“When you play people from your own team you want to have fun and compete, and you know them so well that it gets you a little more nervous but it’s also more exciting,” Pulido said.

The Women of Troy were rained out in San Diego Monday, so the singles championship match was played in USC’s own Marks Stadium at 2:30 p.m. Lao came out on top with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 win over her teammate. Lao’s victory marks the end of Sanchez’s winning streak in the Southwest Regional Championships, which the senior won in 2008 and 2009.

Although it required teammates to battle it out against each other,  this Trojan-against-Trojan matchup ensured a USC sweep of the entire tournament.

Ramos and Pulido’s ultimate victory in the doubles competition occurred the day before Lao’s victory. The pair first defeated its own teammates, the pair of Sanchez and freshman Kaitlyn Christian, in the semifinals, 8-6. The two went on to overpower the Roxanne and Sierra Ellison team from host San Diego State 8-4 in the final to secure the doubles championship.

“I am so happy that Val and I won doubles. We are really intense out there and we have so much fun playing together,” Ramos said. “Our energy rubs off on each other and I think that [it was] a huge contributing factor to our victory.”

The singles and doubles champions will now prepare to compete in the USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships from Nov. 4-7 in New York.

“We basically are going to be playing in one of the toughest tournaments of the whole year because there will be the best doubles teams in the country there,” Pulido said. “Ali and I see it as a challenge and we just want to play really well.”

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