Entering the weekend as the No. 1 seed and boasting an undefeated record, the USC women’s tennis team expected nothing but success at the Pac-12 tournament in Ojai, Calif., this past weekend.
And backed by strong performances from its top players, the team came away with more hardware to add to its already impressive collection, as the doubles tandem comprising junior Kaitlyn Christian and sophomore Sabrina Santamaria won the doubles championship mere hours after Christian took home the invitational singles title.
The top-seeded duo of Christian and Santamaria has not lost a doubles match all season and continued that streak during this tournament, winning all four of their matches en route to a second-straight doubles title.
The final pitted the Women of Troy against a feisty UCLA tandem of Courtney Dolehide and Pamela Montez, but the Christian and Santamaria team won with ease in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3. The final match also served as their 30th straight doubles victory, certainly an impressive feat.
The pair has had a remarkable run of success in all sorts of tournament play, as this becomes their fourth tournament win. The duo has won the Pac-12 championship and the ITA National Indoor Championships twice each.
USC head coach Richard Gallien was understandably pleased with the efforts of his top doubles team.
“Credit Sabrina and Kaitlyn for adding another championship to their season,” Gallien said. “Sabrina was a star in the doubles final. She was hitting some amazing shots.”
That victory came only a few hours after Christian clinched the invitational singles title with a three-set victory over No. 2 seed Ellen Tsay of Stanford. Whereas the doubles portion of the tournament comprised of only 16 duos, the invitational singles champion comes from a pool of 64 players.
Christian earned a bye in the first round, but she still had to win five consecutive matches in order to clinch the title and was given only a brief rest before doubles play began.
A number of other USC players competed over the course of the weekend as a way to get more playing time in before the NCAA tournament.
In the pool of 32 singles championship, sophomores Giuliana Olmos, Gabriella DeSimone and Zoë Scandalis all competed but were unable to walk away with any hardware. Olmos and DeSimone advanced to the round of 16, but their run ended there as they faced top competitors from Stanford and Cal, respectively. In the doubles tournament, Olmos and Scandalis paired up and advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to the No. 3-seed pair Lynn Chi and Anett Schutting from Cal.
The tournament was not all positive for the Women of Troy, however, as DeSimone appeared to suffer an injury that could hinder her heading into the NCAA tournament.
“Gabrielle DeSimone pulled her hip on Thursday,” Gallien said. “The doctors say she will be out for a week. As long as she is ready to go for the first round, we should be fine.”
Moreover, there is a natural concern that non-tennis related distractions could add stress on the girls as they enter the most important leg of their season.
“For us, the most important thing is keeping the girls fresh and enthusiastic, while keeping in mind that they, like the rest of the students, are in the midst of finals season,” Gallien said. “The nice thing is if we get out of the first two rounds, we will be done with all of the girls’ finals moving forward.”
The Women of Troy are expected to be one of the top seeds in the NCAA tournament following a splendid regular season. The tournament will kick off May 17 in Urbana, Ill.