CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. – No. 4 USC surrendered its first point of the season in dual-match play, but regrouped and made a determined push to victory, fighting back for a 4-1 win against No. 12 Virginia on Friday in the Round of 16 at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. Gabriella DeSimone’s comeback efforts locked in the win, putting USC in the quarterfinals against North Carolina, presenting a rematch of last year’s Round of 16 match.
The doubles point got away from the Trojans despite a power shot from USC’s top-ranked pair Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria. The two Trojans silenced UVA’s No. 10 Nauta/Xi 8-0, replicating a shutout win of that same pair in the ITA National Indoor Doubles Championship match back in November. But that was the only doubles match in USC’s favor. Epstein/Vierra topped USC’s DeSimone/Scandalis 8-2 and UVA’s Elbaba/Tomljanovic came through in the clutch with an 8-3 win against USC’s Lao/Olmos to give host Virginia the 1-0 advantage on the board.
The Trojans seemed to stabilize in singles, though. No. 17 Sabrina Santamaria stayed in high gear for her No. 2 singles bout with No. 44 Li Xi in taking down the Cavalier 6-2, 6-1. With battles raging on courts 3-6, USC senior Danielle Lao delivered a solid upset of UVA’s No. 4 Julia Elbaba with a decisive 6-4, 6-1 win against a top-10 opponent while also taking the Trojans ahead 2-1 in the match.
On court three, USC’s No. 19 sophomore Zoë Scandalis was putting forth a solid effort against No. 43 Stephanie Nauta, fighting off two set points to eventually grab the first set in a heated tiebreaker 11-9. That performance seemed to be a lift for all her Trojan teammates down the line. On court five, Giuliana Olmos shrugged off a stumble in the second set by pounding out a 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 win against Erin Vierra, and USC was within striking distance with a 3-1 advantage. Junior Kaitlyn Christian slipped in her first-set tiebreaker with Hana Tomaljanovic, but was still battling in the second while Gabriella DeSimone remained resolved on court four.
No. 56 DeSimone ignored a slump in the first set and moved on to take a lead on Maci Epstein. Epstein forced a tiebreaker in the third, but DeSimone was ready and drilled a 7-4 win in the tiebreaker to come through with the game clincher on a 1-6, 7-5, 7-6 (4) comeback effort to win the match for USC.