After missing the ITA National Team Indoor Championship last year, the Women of Troy have made their way back to Charlottesville, Va., riding a five-game winning streak to start the year.
Ranked No. 16 in the country, USC just made the cut for the Indoor Championships, which only allows the top 16 teams in the nation to compete.
The Women of Troy are looking at this tournament as a great learning experience, but they also are coming to Virginia ready to prove themselves among the nation’s best. USC has not reached a semifinal match in the National Indoor Championship since 2003, and before then it had been 15 years since their previous appearance.
Armed with a slew of freshman, most notably No. 18 Sabrina Santamaria and No. 19 Zoë Scandalis, the Women of Troy should not be overlooked because of their inexperience, and coach Richard Gallien views his youth movement as a positive heading into the weekend.
“While we might be a young squad, I view it as a good thing,” Gallien said. “Even though we may not have the experience [of] other teams, our girls are very excited to go out there and play, which is extremely important to us.”
In their first round match, which starts on Friday at 3:15 EST, the Women of Troy square off against No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels.
Coming off of a tough defeat against No. 12 Northwestern, the Tar Heels (5-2) are looking for revenge against USC. Lead by No. 16 Lauren McHale, who lost the decisive match to the Wildcats’ Kate Turvy last weekend, North Carolina is playing a de facto home game, especially compared to the West Coast-based Women of Troy.
The Tar Heels boast a quality doubles team in junior McHale and senior Shinann Featherston, who received ITA All-American honors and ended up ranked No. 7 in the country last season. On top of that duo, North Carolina also has a talented freshman of their own in Georgia native Caroline Price. Despite her youth, the 5-11 lefty is currently ranked No. 55 in the nation and is coming off of a solid win in third singles against Northwestern.
The way it looks to shake out this weekend would put Santamaria up against the fellow freshman Price in the third singles with junior Danielle Lao matching up against the also experienced Featherston. In first singles, McHale is set to face off against Zoë Scandalis, who will once again take on a top opponent this season
Despite being possibly the fourth singles this weekend, sophomore Kaitlyn Christian was recognized as Pac-12 Player of the Week after not losing a set this past weekend. Christian is just one example of the great depth that the Women of Troy possess throughout their lineup.
If the Women of Troy do dispatch of the Tar Heels, which will be no easy feat, their competition includes 14 of the top 16 teams in the country, with only No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Stanford not competing this weekend. Despite their absences, the tournament still boasts perennial powers like Duke, Georgia and Baylor, along with Pac-12 rivals UCLA and Cal as well.
While winning will always be the ultimate goal, the Women of Troy will be provided a great experience against quality competition going forward.