In a battle of two top teams, USC’s second-ranked women’s tennis team lost a 4-3 heartbreaker to No. 1 UCLA (12-0) Thursday afternoon before besting the University of San Diego on Saturday 6-1.
After opening Pac-12 play with a decisive victory over No. 5 Cal, the Women of Troy (10-2) were poised to challenge the Bruins for the top spot in the conference. Coach Richard Gallien’s group was also looking to exact some revenge against UCLA after they bounced USC in the semifinals of the ITA National Indoor Championships just three weeks prior.
Despite their success in recent weeks, the Women of Troy had failed to win the doubles’ point in three out of their last four matches and Thursday would be no exception.
Although the pairing of junior Danielle Lao and senior Alison Ramos were able to register the first victory of the match on court two against Montez/Vannguye 8-2, the third-ranked duo of sophomore Kaitlyn Christian and freshman Sabrina Santamaria against UCLA’s top team of Anderson/Dolehide.
In the point-deciding game on court three, freshman Zoe Scandalis and junior Valeria Pulido, who rank 39th in the country, couldn’t hold on to their 6-5 lead and fell to the UCLA tandem of Jones and Seguso 8-6.
While the momentum had been shifted over to the Bruins side, USC quickly regained it behind a strong home crowd with Christian taking down UCLA’s Skylar Morton and the 26th-ranked Santamaria bullying Pamela Montez to even the match at 2-2. In between the two victories for USC, Scandalis had her hands full all day trying to keep up with No. 5 Robin Anderson on court one and the battle of the freshman went to the Bruins as Anderson would record a 6-3, 6-3 win.
After Lao dismantled Jones on court two and Ramos fell on court six, the match stood at 3-3 and would once again come down to freshman Gabriella DeSimone. Though the season is still young, DeSimone has already shown a propensity to play well under pressure as evidenced by two game-clinching wins in USC’s last three victories, including last weekend against Cal.
The magic would run out for the freshman this Thursday, however, as she could not take advantage of a first set victory. Despite being down a set, UCLA’s freshman Channelle Van Nguyen came out strong in the next two sets and quelled any comeback DeSimone tried to put together, taking the match 4-6, 6-2 6-3.
Still dealing with the heartbreak of Thursday’s loss, Saturday would elicit a much better outcome for the Women of Troy.
In need of a rebound game, USC was all over the San Diego from the start, taking the doubles point with a 2-1 victory. Coach Gallien tweaked the doubles’ lineup against USD moving Sabrina Santamaria with Lao and pairing Santamaria’s previous partner Kaitlyn Christian with the junior Pulido.
In singles, the Women of Troy would’ve completed the sweep if Sabrina Santamria had not retired due to injury early in the second set.
While this week’s slew of games may be seen as a disappointment, the young Women of Troy can take pride in the fight and grit they showed battling the nation’s best team. With much of Pac-12 play still ahead of them, USC will get another crack at the Bruins and a chance to take down their top-ranked rivals.