Coming off of a monumental win against No. 1 UCLA, the No. 4 USC women’s tennis team defend their regular season Pac-12 title this weekend in Ojai, Calif. for the Pac-12 Championship.
“If we do well this weekend it’s great, but if we falter it’s not a huge deal,” USC coach Richard Gallien said. “It will be nice not playing a dual mach, which is a very hair matchup, and with the great schedule we played this year mixing up with these teams again will keep up fresh.”
With the Bruins (21-2, 8-2) all but ready to crown themselves Pac-12 champs Friday, the Women of Troy (20-3, 9-1) and their young squad had another idea in mind.
“They’re a very good team [UCLA], but they were getting ready for a coronation on Friday and even invited the Tennis Channel to the game,” Gallien said. “Our girls weren’t having anything off it, though, and even after getting barbecued by the crowd early as the day went on we arm-wrestled them down and got a tough win.”
After losing their previous two matches this season to UCLA, it was no wonder the Bruins’ confidence was sky-high. Just like they had done all season, though, the Women of Troy fought back strong and even stole the elusive doubles’ point to jump out to an early match lead.
“Doubles was so important for us and there were a a couple of matches that were so close like [Valeria] Pulido’s match and Zoe [Scandalis’] that could’ve went into three sets,” Gallien said. “The match I felt we had to have was at No. 2 with Danielle Lao, but by the end we had won the match before she finished.”
For freshman Scandalis, her victory against Robin Anderson had multiple implications. Unlike her one-on-one victory against UCLA’s Robin Anderson earlier on this year in Las Vegas, this win was done in a team forum with the entire Women of Troy squad rooting her on. On top of that, this specific victory moved her all the way up to No. 13 in nation, which puts her in the top-16, guaranteeing her a spot on the All-American team.
Along with the doubles team of sophomore Kaitlyn Christian and freshman Sabrina Santamaria, who have clinched All-American spots, Scandalis could also be joined by junior Lao who may need a few wins this weekend to push her into the top-16.
“The future looks very good for us, there are a billion ridiculous dumb clichés in sports I can say, but the reality is that all you can hope for is the girls stay sharp, healthy and motivated, and I have no doubt this group will do this,” coach Gallien said.
Armed with four potential All-Americans and a Pac-12 title, the Women of Troy have all the firepower they need to make a deep tournament run. On top of the tangible aspects, USC has really coalesced to form a tight knit group made up of savvy veterans and eager younglings.
“It’s tough because the girls aren’t used to being on a team. That’s such a challenge and the three freshman who came in did a great job and senior Alison Ramos our captain did an awesome job relating to them,” Gallien said. “Everyone pulled their weight and it made my job easier and more fun.”