It’s been a few weeks since the Stanford women’s tennis team handed then-No. 1 ranked Florida its first loss, replacing the Gators as the top team in the nation. This victory gave the Cardinal the momentum it needed to easily cruise past both St. Mary’s and San Francisco in its most recent matches.
Due to a new computer-generated ITA ranking system, however, No. 11 Stanford (6-0, 1-0 Pac-12) enters this weekend as the underdog once more—at least on paper.
Stanford will take on No. 7 California (6-3, 0-0) this Friday and then travel north to Washington to face the No. 28 Huskies (5-2, 0-0) in a double-header weekend. Although the Stanford players don’t pay much attention to the rankings, this weekend’s matches will nonetheless provide the team with an opportunity to prove itself. Cal especially will be a tough test for the Cardinal as both squads have nationally ranked singles players backed up by deep lineups.
“I think regardless of the sport, there’s always something special and exciting about playing Cal, but it really couldn’t be much more competitive than for tennis.” sophomore Kristie Ahn said. “I’ve known some of their players since the [junior tennis], so it’s always entertaining to think that we’re mortal enemies.”
Cal’s No. 1 player, Jana Juricova, has not been playing as of late, but Ahn acknowledged that the Cardinal needs to be prepared, whether she steps back into the lineup or not.
Senior captain Veronica Li kept the focus on the Cardinal, as she views this weekend’s upcoming match as a chance to measure Stanford’s development this far into the regular season.
“I’m really excited for this match because I think it will push all of us individually and challenge us to play our best,” Li said. “Playing Cal at their house is always a battle, but I’m looking forward to gauging our improvement in the past few weeks.”
No. 28 Washington will also test the players’ adaptability, as they will be playing in unfamiliar conditions.
“Washington definitely has a home court advantage because they’re used to playing on indoor courts,” Li explained. “The court surface is quicker, and we’re going to have to adjust our games to be prepared for that.”
Li and Ahn both recognized the hardships that come along with not only competing in two matches in one weekend, but also the travel associated with it.
“I think being on the road forces us to prepare even more carefully,” Li said. “It’s taxing to spend that many hours traveling and by the time we get back, everyone is usually exhausted. We’re traveling a lot over the next two weeks so it’s important to get ahead in school right now, rest and prepare.”
As captain, Li said she realizes that she’s lucky to be surrounded by such driven teammates.
“My job has been easy in the sense that I don’t have to micromanage people,” Li said. “Everyone is pretty independent and good at taking care of issues like class conflicts and injuries. Traveling definitely brings the team together because it’s only us away from the chaos of campus.”
Ahn, who just recently returned from injury, highlighted the benefits of playing alongside her teammates once again, even in an unfamiliar environment.
“I forgot how much of a boost you can get from seeing your teammate taking the lead or fighting through a tough point,” she said.
She should get plenty of motivation in this weekend’s two matches, especially from Li, her doubles partner. Although Ahn, who played doubles with Gibbs for much of last year, has switched to the forehand side with Li, she feels confident about both singles and doubles going into the weekend.
“I think I’ve done pretty well considering the circumstances,” she said. “Although, I do have a lot of room for improvement.”
Ahn and the Stanford women’s squad will all have the opportunity to put their hard work to the test this weekend at Cal on Friday at 1:30 p.m. and again at Washington on Sunday at noon.