Women of Troy find championship pairing in Christian, Santamaria

Three thousand miles away, the USC women’s tennis team is making some noise.

Just one day removed from becoming the first pair of Women of Troy to reach the semifinals of the ITA Indoor Doubles Championships, sophomore Kaitlyn Christian and freshman Sabrina Santamaria took it one step further on Sunday by defeating Notre Dame’s Kristy Frilling and Shannon Mathews at the USTA Billie Jean National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., to become ITA National Indoor doubles champions.

The win marks the most successful tournament run for a women’s doubles tandem since Christian and now-departed Maria Sanchez advanced to the NCAA women’s semifinals in May 2011.

This year’s duo, however, could turn out to be even more formidable.

Santamaria has enjoyed early success since taking the court for the Women of Troy. She burst onto the scene by winning the ITA Women’s Southwest Regionals in San Diego two weeks ago, and carried that momentum into the doubles tournament. Christian recently advanced to the semifinals of the Jack Kramer Invitational this past week.

Christian was quick to credit the newcomer Santamaria for the historic win.

“It’s so nice to have her at USC,” Christian said. “She’s a banger at the baseline and I like to be all over the net. That can’t complement any better.”

Santamaria, following her teammate’s lead, deflected the credit.

“I never thought this would happen,” she said upon reaching the finals. “[Christian’s] carrying me. It’s all her.”

In the championship match, it was Santamaria who shouldered the heavy load. She held in each of her service games to overcome five breaks of Christian’s serve.

“I was really focused,” Santamaria said. “I knew I had to hold my serve every single time, and if I didn’t we probably would not have won.”

After splitting the first two sets, Christian’s serve was broken after she switched to an underhand serve. That brought the Fighting Irish within 4-3 and in control of the serve. But Christian redeemed herself by putting away a volley on break point to take a 5-3 lead.

Santamaria served out the next game to clinch the victory, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Though their experience playing together at USC is fairly new, Christian and Santamaria actually have a history together.  The two were partnered together during their junior career, which began in the Girls’ 14s division of the USTA junior tournaments.

Even though they are just setting out on their USC tennis careers, Christian and Santamaria have already left their mark in the USC history books. They are the first USC doubles team — male or female — to win the doubles championship at the tournament.