USC Women Eye Pac-12 Team & Individual Titles In Ojai

    The No. 19 Trojans go up against Stanford for the Pac-12 crown on Wednesday in Ojai.
    April 19, 2016

    USC Women's Tennis Release Get Acrobat Reader

    March 11, 2016
    Palo Alto, Calif.
    The Women of Troy take aim at claiming their fourth Pac-12 title in five years when USC squares off against Stanford in Ojai this week. No. 19 USC (12-4, 7-0 Pac-12) and No. 13 Stanford (13-5, 8-1) will play for the title on Wednesday (April 20) at 12:30 p.m. at Ojai Valley Athletic Club as a kickoff to the Pac-12 Singles and Doubles Championships taking place April 21-25 in Ojai, Calif. Their original conference clash was rained out in Palo Alto, and by virtue of their respective successes down the stretch, they’ve earned the right to play for the Pac-12 crown.  
    The Women of Troy — NCAA semifinalists in 2015 — started the new year right where they left off, as the No. 2 team in the land in the first team rankings of 2016. In the latest round of national rankings (April 19), USC stands as the No. 19 team in the land. In the latest set of individual rankings (April 19), USC has three Trojans locked in with singles rankings. Senior Giuliana Olmos continues to lead the way, now ranked #24 in the nation. She’s followed by a pair of underclassmen — freshman #115 Rianna Valdes and sophomore #116 Madison Westby.  In doubles, USC boasts the #7 pair in the land in Olmos and Smith, while Zoë Katz and Westby now stand at #80.

    The No. 13 Cardinal is 13-5 overall and 8-1 in Pac-12 play after handing Cal its first loss of the year with a 4-3 upset last week. Stanford’s only loss of Pac-12 play came to ASU, but the Cardinal’s upset win over Cal last week set the stage for this week’s Pac-12 title matchup against USC. Stanford has four players nationally ranked in singles: #33 Carol Zhao, #40 Taylor Davidson, #82 Caroline Doyle and #93 Krista Hardebeck. In doubles, Stanford has #5 Davidson/Doyle and #67 Hardebeck/Lampl. USC is 22-63 all-time against the Cardinal after a 6-1 win last season at Marks Stadium.
    PAC-12 PLAN
    There will be a 32-player women’s singles championship draw consisting of three players from each of the top 10 schools that sponsor women’s tennis and two players from the 11th-place team, based on the regular-season standings. The 16-team women’s doubles championship draw at the annual Pac-12 Tennis Tournament in Ojai, Calif, will have one doubles team from each of the 11 schools and five additional teams selected by the Draw Committee. There will also be invitational brackets for both singles and doubles, running separately from the championship draws. The Pac-12 women will play the first two rounds at the Ojai Valley Athletic Club, and then will play the semifinals and finals at Libbey Park. The women’s singles championship match is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Sunday at Libbey Park and will be followed by the doubles final. Sunday’s singles championship will be broadcast live on all seven Pac-12 Networks and online at at 10 a.m. The women’s doubles final will air tape-delayed at 7 p.m.
    Last year, USC won the Pac-12 Championship with an undefeated 10-0 run through conference dual matches, capping off the effort with a 4-3 win over rival UCLA. In the 2015 Pac-12 Individual Championships, USC had four players competing in the Pac-12 singles draw. Giuliana Olmos was the top-seeded player, and she worked her way through to the semifinals. Sabrina Santamaria was the No. 3 seed and reached the Round of 16. Zoë Scandalis got through to the opposite semifinal of Olmos, and Madison Westby lost in the Round of 32 in her debut at the Pac-12 tournament. In invitational singles, USC’s Meredith Xepoleas powered up for a run to win the title in that bracket, while Gabby Smith and Zoë Katz both reached the quarterfinal round. In the championship draw of doubles play, USC’s Olmos/Scandalis got to the quarterfinals, and Smith/Westby fell in the Round of 16. On the Invitational side, Gabriella DeSimone paired with Katz for a run to the invitational championship.
    AND NOW...
    The Women of Troy will take aim at Pac-12 individual titles when singles and doubles draws get underway in Ojai. The draws are due to be announced by Thursday morning.USC’s Giuliana OlmosMadison Westby and Zoë Katz are set to compete in the tournament bracket in singles, with Olmos and Gabby Smith paired up and Katz/Westby also teamed up for the tournament doubles draw. 
    USC avenged an earlier loss to its rival with a powerful final home stand, beating No. 23 UCLA 4-1 at Marks Stadium in a unprecedented doubleheader with the USC and UCLA men’s teams. The day’s event opened with simultaneous doubles action, with the men and women playing out their respective doubles points alongside one another. While the USC men were unable to net the first point of the day, the Women of Troy got the job done for a leg up in their matchup with the Bruins. After the men played out their match, the women took the stage, and the USC women plowed farther ahead in snagging two quick singles matches, surrendering the next and then hammering home the clincher from Jessica Failla on court five to wrap up a 4-1 win for the Women of Troy. In doubles,  the Bruins pulled off the first doubles win of the day with Fleming/Miller beating out USC’s #61 Zoë Katz and Madison Westby, but the Trojans had a serious response. On court three, freshman combo pack Jessica Failla and Rianna Valdes pinned up a 6-3 win over UCLA’s Magill/Wiley to make it all even. Then, on court one, USC’s top guns #9 Giuliana Olmos and Gabby Smith stepped to the plate and served up a 6-3 upset of UCLA’s #6 Harrison/Phillips. Smith sealed the deal with a sizzling ace to put that 1-0 lead on the board for the Women of Troy. The women would take a break while the men’s teams played out their singles section, and got back on the court a couple hours later to start up singles play. The Women of Troy were ready for the Bruins in the singles stretch, taking the first sets on four courts to take a position of power in the match. After drumming up a 3-0 lead in her match on court six, USC’s #121 Valdes stayed the course and took her Trojans to a 2-0 lead with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Maia Magill. Next, Katz was in winning mode herself as she forged a path to a 6-3, 6-3 win over UCLA’s Terri Fleming to nudge USC into position with a 3-0 advantage. The Bruins would get on the board when Alaina Miller managed a 6-0, 7-5 win over USC’s #99 Smith on court four, making it 3-1 and prompting the Trojans to find a finishing touch. Freshman Failla would answer the call. The #117 Failla fended off UCLA opponent Kristin Wiley’s attempt to force a third set and finally finished off the match with a solid 6-2, 6-4 clincher from court five. That put the all-important fourth point on the board for the Women of Troy, icing the rivalry clash for the USC cause and suspending action on courts one and two. There, #24 Olmos was in an all-out battle with #17 Catherine Harrison, while #123 Westby was looking to sidestep a third set against Kyle McPhillips.
    USC’s lone senior this season is the talented top gun Giuliana Olmos, the Trojans’ only ITA All-American on the roster and a true veteran for USC. Her list of accolades continues to grow. A 2014 Pac-12 Doubles Champion with then-senior Kaitlyn Christian, Olmos would also earn All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention and reach the NCAA Singles and Doubles Rounds of 32 in her sophomore season. As a junior, Olmos won the ITA Southwest Regional Doubles Championship with partner Gabby Smith and went on to reach the Pac-12 singles semifinals, earned a place on the All-Pac-12 First Team and worked her way into the NCAA Singles Round of 32 as a 9-16 seed and to the NCAA Doubles Round of 16. Now a senior captain for the Women of Troy, Olmos continues to raise the bar as she’s stepped into the No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles slots this season. Olmos opened the 2015-16 season with her highest career singles ranking at #10 in the land. Her highest career doubles rank was #4 in February 2014 alongside Zoë Scandalis.
    Senior Giuliana Olmos and junior Zoë Katz are the veterans on the Trojan roster this season, with three sophomores and two freshmen joining them for the bulk of the playing time in 2016. Sophomores Gabby SmithMadison Westby and Meredith Xepoleas got a lion’s share of experience as freshmen as they helped anchor USC’s run to a No. 1 ranking and a run to the NCAA Semifinals in 2015. This year, that trio of sophomores brings back their savvy in helping USC’s newcomers settle into the lineup. Freshmen Jessica Failla and Rianna Valdes are key components in the USC ladder, and both are ranked national singles rankings. 
    USC’s winningest Trojan in the singles realm this season so far is freshman Jessica Failla, who is the first to crack the 20-win mark this season. That has her just ahead of junior Zoë Katz’ 18 wins and senior Giuliana Olmos’ 16 wins, while sophomore Gabby Smith weighs in with 15 in the win column. In doubles, USC’s winningest pair is the powerful #9-ranked Olmos and Smith, who have tacked up 14 wins together so far this season.
    USC had two Pac-12 road matches canceled by rain in March. USC’s March 11 matchup at No. 23 Stanford was the first to be rained out. On March 12, USC was in Berkeley to take on top-ranked California, but rain caused that match to be postponed until the next day. March 13 wasn’t much better, as the teams barely got started in doubles when rain halted the match. Both matches will be played as necessary in April in conjunction with the Pac-12 Championships in Ojai, Calif. 
    Four years ago, USC women’s tennis decided it wanted to make a difference in the world. When then-junior Kaitlyn Christian’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, now-senior Giuliana Olmos was moved to find a way to help. Olmos and her teammates started the Rose Cup — named for Kaitlyn’s mother — to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research. Every fall since the event’s inception in 2012, USC student-athletes combine forces on the courts at Marks Stadium in support for the cause. Rose has since beaten her disease, and this season the Trojans dedicated their efforts in honor of Madison Westby’s aunt Pam, who is currently in her own fight with breast cancer. At the fourth annual edition of the Rose Cup — held in November 2015  — the $5,000 raised through the tournament, t-shirts sold and other donations went directly to Dr. Julie Lang’s research lab at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.
    The USC men’s and women’s tennis teams have called the David X. Marks Tennis Stadium home since its construction in 1971. This year, Trojan tennis moves back into a revamped and renovated home that is up-to-date and in line with the impressive accomplishments of both programs. The courts were open for action throughout construction, and a ribbon-cutting and dedication for the new facility was held on Feb. 16 to officially unveil the newest additions to the Marks Tennis Stadium — the Buntmann Family Tennis Center, Fritz B. Burns Center Court, Lisa and Douglas Goldman Family Student-Athlete Learning Center and Michael Uytengsu Tennis Pavilion — the happy home of the USC men’s and women’s tennis teams. The Buntmann Family Tennis Center entrance and lobby welcomes fans and visitors and put on display the rich history of USC tennis. To improve the building functionality and support the tennis program operations, the new Lisa and Douglas Goldman Family Student-Athlete Learning Studio supports direct collaboration between coaches, staff and athletes on a daily basis. The teams also utilize and enjoy brand-new suites with lockers, showers, team meeting rooms and lounges. Both teams have access to a new training room, a stringing storage area and a large multi-purpose room. To better accommodate and enhance the spectator experience, new spectator shade canopies have been added and a new elevator to the seating area has been installed. In addition to the lead gift from the Buntmann family, the renovation has been made possible thanks to financial support from the Lisa and Douglas Goldman family, the Fritz B. Burns Foundation, John Shea and Michael Uytengsu.
    The 2015 Women of Troy had a banner season in earning their first #1 national ranking in over a decade and working their way to the NCAA Semifinals for the  second time in four seasons. USC’s 25-3 final overall record marked the most wins by the program since USC won the NCAA title in 1985 and the most wins in head coach Richard Gallien’s 20-year tenure with the program. The Trojans also went undefeated in Pac-12 play in 2015 to win another conference title, and worked its way to the top of the national rankings for the first time since 2003. USC also was seeded No. 1 in the 2015 NCAA draw — the Trojans’ 24th consecutive trip to the tournament — entering the tourney as the top seed for the first time since 1985, when USC last won a national championship. In all, it was an outstanding season for the Women of Troy, who were a balanced mix of veteran strength and freshman talent. For seniors Gabriella DeSimoneSabrina Santamaria and Zoë Scandalis, the year marked their second NCAA Semifinal appearance, having reached that round as freshmen in 2012. Santamaria and junior Giuliana Olmos both picked up ITA All-American honors at the close of the season. Scandalis would go on to earn high honors as a top-9 finalist for the NCAA Woman of the Year awards. •