Senior Maria Sanchez’s 6-4, 6-0 victory against No. 24 Irene Rehberger told the story of the afternoon for the Women of Troy, as she put on a dominating display of tennis on a day that saw USC win five of its six singles matches, in addition to strong performances in doubles play.
Despite a few unforced errors in the earlygoings of the match, Sanchez turned her play up a notch in the middle portion of the first set and never lost momentum, as evidenced by her sweep of the last eight games of the match.
“I felt like I stepped it up at the end of the first set and I never eased up throughout the match,” said Sanchez, who came in as the nation’s number three singles player.
Using her imposing forehand at will, Sanchez took the offensive whenever the opportunity arose and never let the veteran Rehberger, described by USC coach Richard Gallien as “cagey,” back in the match.
In the second singles match, sophomore Danielle Lao had little trouble facing Ecaterina Vasenina, as she kept the Vasenina out of arms reach in the first set, before wrapping up the match with an impressive closing ability in the second and final set, winning 6-2, 6-1.
A top-30 player herself, Lao has proved the perfect complement to Sanchez, who she defeated in the ITA Southwest Regional singles championship last year, and Thursday was no exception.
USC’s sole loss came on the final match of the day, when South Florida’s Loreta Alonso outlasted junior Alli Ramos 7-6, 6-3 in two tightly-contested sets. Alonso’s powerful swings had Ramos on the defense, and despite her grit, she could not recover from the losing tiebreakers at the end of the first set and in the middle of the second.
“Alli’s got the heart of a lion and [is] one of the most important people on our team in terms of characters and spunk and fight. She’ll win lots of matches [for us],” Gallien said.
The three other singles matches all ended in a Women of Troy victory, most notably with sophomore Valeria Pulido shutting out USF’s Alessandra Bonte 6-0, 6-0 in the game’s quickest match.
With a visit from No. 22 Texas looming, the USC women’s tennis team knows it can’t afford anything less than an all-around dominating performance against the Bulls.
“We’re in a good place. We have some talent, though we don’t have a long with just seven girls on scholarship there isn’t too much room for error, we are ready to compete,” Gallien said.