Zoë Scandalis’ time at USC has been that of a dominant player on the court, and dedicated community member off it.
Even during her freshman season, it was evident that Scandalis’ career as a Trojan would be special. After posting a 36-14 singles record and finishing ranked 11th in the country, Scandalis was named the ITA “National Player to Watch”, an ITA All-American, a member of the USTA Collegiate Team, and an All-PAC-12 First Team member.
This dominance continued into her sophomore season, as she was named to her second All-PAC-12 Team, and reached the doubles final of the National Collegiate Tennis Classic with partner Gabriella DeSimone. She finished her sophomore year ranked 24th in the country, and was primed to make a big splash during her junior season.
However, none could have predicted the extent to which Scandalis would have to step up for her team this year.
Fellow Junior Sabrina Santamaria, the top USC women’s singles player, tore her ACL during a match against Texas earlier in March, tragically ending her season. It was up to Scandalis to take over the number one role, and serve as a leader for her team.
Scandalis has done an exceptional job filling in for Santamaria, in a season highlighted by a signature singles victory over 3rd ranked Robin Anderson of UCLA. As of this month, she is ranked 25th in the nation in singles, and 6th in the nation in doubles with partner Giuliana Olmos, a fellow recipient of the Outreach Athlete of the Month.
Scandalis’ impact, however, has stretched far beyond the court.
She has maintained strong community involvement throughout this year, by participating in the Rose Cup Tournament, the Community Bowl, Girls PLAY events, and the Heritage Hall Re-Opening night.
Scandalis also has a particularly special relationship with a group of middle school girls at the 32nd Street School near USC. “Every week I meet with 12 girls that are all in 6th grade”, she commented. “They have such sweet personalities and most of them love sports so it’s been fun running around doing different games with them.”
Beyond just games, however, Scandalis makes sure to add important life lessons to their sessions together. “I find it really important that they know their values; whether it be loyalty, hard work, or independence, and that they have a role model in mind to learn from. I hope in our lessons and through the things we write in the journals that they have a better idea of the person they want to become.”
Scandalis understands the unique opportunity for positive mentorship that she possesses as a USC Athlete. “I feel like as student-athletes at USC we have the ability to get young kids to listen and look up to us. I realize that I might not always have this ability to make a difference in someone else’s life so I want to use my time here as a student-athlete the best I can. I see so much potential in these young girls, I hope to help inspire them to reach for their goals in anyway possible.”
The relationship between Scandalis and the students was heightened, as they were able to attend the match against UCLA earlier this month.
“I was touched to hear them all screaming and waving signs around,” commented Scandalis. “I loved having them behind my court.”
Beyond goal setting and identity, education is another important pillar of Scandalis’ mentorship. “I want to emphasize how getting schoolwork done and doing well in the classroom will allow them to go after what they want, both in athletics and other endeavors,” said Scandalis.
As Zoë Scandalis’ season heated up in March, she refused to miss a day with her group. Her dedication to the community is not only exemplary, but it seems to be reaping benefits in all areas of her life. One thing is for sure: Scandalis possesses a unique ability to powerfully serve, both on and off the court.