No. 2 USC Women Cap Perfect Pac-12 Season With Perfect Comeback Finish Over No. 5 UCLA|
April 16, 2015
LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- The No. 2 USC women's tennis team finished off a perfect Pac-12 season in the perfect fashion, staging an impressive comeback rally against crosstown rival No. 5 UCLA for a 4-3 victory to wrap the regular season. The Women of Troy were trailing the Bruins 3-0 in the match before senior Zoë Scandalis got a point on the board for USC. That sparked a momentum shift that saw a set of Trojans deftly pull off heroic win after heroic win. The Trojans had fallen in the first sets on all three remaining courts, forced a third set on all three courts, and then trailed again in two of those third sets. Still, USC refused to give up. Freshman Meredith Xepoleas grabbed her 12th consecutive win, junior Giuliana Olmos pulled the match even next, and freshman Madison Westby sealed the deal after almost five hours of tennis action at Marks Stadium. The win is USC's 11th straight victory, putting the Trojans at 21-2 overall and giving them sole possession of the Pac-12 Championship with a perfect 10-0 finish.
The day began with an all-out battle in doubles, setting the tone for the competitive and unpredictable match between the two crosstown rivals. UCLA delivered an 8-3 win on court one to start things off, as #15 Anderson/Brady prevailed over USC's #23 Zoë Katz and Sabrina Santamaria. On court three, the Bruins grabbed the doubles point with an 8-4 decision on Van Nguyen/Wiley's win over USC's Gabby Smith and Madison Westby, leaving court two suspended and UCLA gripping a 1-0 lead.
Singles action was an war as well. Two hours of singles play saw the score still stuck at 1-0 UCLA. Soon after the two-hour mark, though, the Bruins broke through. An epic battle on court one between UCLA's top-ranked Robin Anderson and USC's #19 Sabrina Santamaria saw the Trojan senior fight out of a 0-3 third-set hole to take a late lead. Anderson broke back, though, and was able to pull off the win with a 3-6, 0-6, 7-5 comeback to register a 2-0 lead for the Bruins. Meanwhile, #75 freshman Gabby Smith had fought back to win the second set on court five, but lost ground against UCLA's #64 Catherine Harrison in the third to fall 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 and see UCLA go up 3-0.
On court three, USC's #61 senior Zoë Scandalis had the chance to finish off #17 Chanelle Van Nguyen in straight sets. The pair had battled through three in their previous meeting, so Scandalis was intent on making a stand in this one. The Trojan was able to fend off Van Nguyen this time, pulling away in the second-set tiebreaker to get a crucial point on the board for the Women of Troy on Scandalis' 6-2, 7-6 (5) victory. While Scandalis was in her tiebreaker, freshman Madison Westby was in one of her own on court four. Westby would need to win the breaker if USC had any chance of a comeback, and Westby answered the call. Shaking off injury, Westby rallied back, fought off match point, and forced a third set -- a vital boost to the Trojans outlook in the match.
Fellow freshman #79 Meredith Xepoleas had stumbled in her first set against #91 Kaitlin Ray. She'd wind up in dire straights in the second set, too, down 4-5 before breaking back and rallying to win the second and bring up a third. There, the freshman settled in, created space, and drummed up a second point for the Trojans with her 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 comeback victory to make it 3-2. Next, #13 junior Giuliana Olmos was working on a comeback of her own. Up against the defending Pac-12 singles champion, #49 Jennifer Brady, Olmos got out to a slow start before digging in to force a third set. Brady won the first game of the third, but Olmos pounded out six of the next five to claim the equalizer for USC on her 2-6, 7-5, 6-2 win over Brady on court two. That put all eyes back on court four, where #78 Westby was trying to get the edge on #28 Kyle McPhillips. The Bruin junior led 2-1 in the third before Westby kicked into gear and won the next three games to take a lead she would not relinquish. She'd end up serving for the match and came through with the clincher, beating McPhillips 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-4 to secure USC's undefeated Pac-12 season with the 4-3 win over its rivals.
This is USC's second undefeated Pac-12 season in three years, as the Trojans also won the title outright in 2013. Next, USC heads to the Pac-12 Tournament to vie for singles and doubles titles out in Ojai, Calif., from April 22-26.
#2 USC 4, #5 UCLA 3