Having returned from last weekend’s trek to Gainesville to face No. 4 Florida and No. 18 Clemson, the Stanford women’s tennis team will reappear back at the Farm this Saturday in a huge match-up against cross-town rival Cal.
The No. 26 Cardinal (4-2, 0-0 Pac-12) will take on the No. 9 Golden Bears (4-3) in a non-conference meeting. The Pac-12 dual match will take place at Cal on April 19. Though this weekend’s meeting won’t count towards conference rankings, its importance for Stanford cannot be overemphasized.
The Cardinal fell out of the top 25 after its loss to Florida, which is unfamiliar territory for the powerhouse program. Stanford has reached the quarterfinals and the finals of the NCAA Championship each of the last two seasons, respectively.
“This match is just huge for us,” Gibbs said. “Cal is a top-10 team, and we’ve obviously fallen in the rankings recently. It’s an opportunity for us to restart a streak at home and regain confidence both individually and as a team.”
The Golden Bears will not be an easy opponent. They boast four nationally ranked players: No. 5 sophomore Zsofi Susanyi, No. 8 junior Anett Schutting, No. 49 freshman Lynn Chi and No. 117 freshman Klara Fabikova.
Stanford and Cal’s only common opponent is Saint Mary’s, who upset the then seventh-ranked Cardinal 4-3 on Feb. 16. A few weeks earlier, the Bears swept the Gaels with a dominant 7-0 victory. Cal is also coming off a win over No. 11 USC last Saturday, whom it defeated 5-2 the day after losing to No. 3 UCLA.
Susanyi, who typically tops the lineup for the Bears, did not play singles in the USC matchup. Schutting instead manned court one and defeated USC’s No. 3 nationally ranked Danielle Lao. Either way, Stanford junior captain Nicole Gibbs will face a tough opponent this Saturday.
“We are preparing that [Susanyi] will be playing at the top, but we are ready for either player,” she said.
Gibbs has faced both Susanyi and Schutting before. “[Susanyi] is a grinder,” she said. “She makes a lot of balls and is very athletic. She makes it tough on you to win points for sure. [Schutting] is more straightforward. She hits a pretty flat ball and tries to go for winners. She makes you play more defensively.”
Gibbs and the rest of the Cardinal squad will be hard at work as they attempt to beat Cal and climb back up the rankings. The hard labor won’t just take place on Saturday, though. The team has revamped its normal practices post-Florida in an effort to become a more physical group.
“We read an article on Florida’s website after our match that talked about how they wanted to be physical against us,” Gibbs said. “We don’t want to be perceived as a team that’s not super fit, so we’ve reorganized our practices to reflect our desire to get more physical and more athletic as a team.”
This intensity has permeated Stanford’s long afternoon practices this week as it prepares for Cal’s visit. The team hopes to carry over this intensity through Saturday, not only to regain its reputation as one of the nation’s top programs, but also to entertain the large fan base that’s expected to show.
“People all day have been approaching me with knowledge of the match this weekend,” Gibbs said. “We should see a good fan base.”
The Cardinal and Golden Bears will duke it out in the Big Slam this Saturday at 12 p.m. on the Taube Family Tennis Courts.
Contact Chrissy Jones at chrissyj “at” stanford.edu.