Postponed from yesterday due to rain, Thursday’s match between the No. 2 ranked Stanford women’s tennis team and the No. 40 Saint Mary’s Gaels will be the Cardinal’s final warm up before facing Cal this weekend on the road.
The match will now take place at 3 p.m. at Taube Tennis Center, with doubles likely to occur on the backcourts because the men’s tennis team will also be playing at that time.
Heading into today’s match with Saint Mary’s (11-7, 9-0 WCC), the conference-leading Cardinal (21-0, 7-0 Pac-10) is undefeated on the season.
“We’re really excited to get a match in before we play Cal,” said senior Carolyn McVeigh. “[Cal] is going to be a huge match because they’re one of those top-ranked teams that always gives us a good battle. We’re also playing them for the Pac-10 title. Saint Mary’s will be a good stepping stone tomorrow so we are prepared for our match on Saturday.”
The Cardinal is the only remaining undefeated team in the nation, but despite that fact, it dropped to second in the most recent ITA rankings.
The team has oscillated between No. 1 and No. 2 due to perceived strength of schedule. At No. 1 is the University of Florida (21-1, 10-0 SEC), which the Cardinal defeated 4-2 in the championship of the National Team Indoor Championships.
In Pac-10 play, Stanford has guaranteed itself at least a share of the Pac-10 title with a perfect 7-0 league record. Cal, the Cardinal’s final opponent of the regular season, is right behind at 6-1 in league play and could gain a share of the title if it upsets Stanford this Saturday.
Even though the pressure is mounting with the conference title on the line, the Cardinal appears to be in solid physical condition coming down this stretch run.
“Everyone’s doing really well,” said sophomore Mallory Burdette. “I know Kristie [Ahn]’s foot is bothering her a little bit. Other than that, we’re doing well injury-wise, which coming into the last part of the season is a really good thing. I think everybody else is pushing right now to try and improve every bit that we can leading up to NCAAs physically and technically.”
Before that happens, the Cardinal must fight through the Gaels, who are undefeated in WCC play. At the top of their lineup is Alex Poorta, the No. 49 player in the nation, who has amassed an 11-6 record this season. At the No. 2 spot is usually Catherine Isip, who comes in with a 13-3 record. Jenny Jullien is one more player to look out for, as she is undefeated when playing at the four or five spot.
“They’re a scrappy bunch,” McVeigh said. “They have a lot of great athletes and get a lot of balls back. It’s a great opportunity for us to make sure our games are honed in for Saturday and to make sure we’re match tough for the weekend match.”
Players typically use the few matches left at the end of the regular season to work on specific technical issues in the hopes that they can smooth them out before the postseason hits.
“Whether you’re playing Cal or Saint Mary’s, you’re working on specific things, even during matches, that need to improve,” Burdette said. “I feel like at this point in the season, we’re so building up toward NCAAs that every match is important. It’s a place you can work on whatever you need to work on.”
Often, these things are small technical issues or, as in Burdette’s case, mental changes.
“One of the biggest things that I need to work on is staying positive out there on the court and then also making quick adjustments,” Burdette said. “Especially after I’ll win the first set, in the second set I’ll start to make a few more errors. I need to recognize that fact, stay positive and make quicker adjustments in order to figure it out.”
The Cardinal plays today at 3 p.m. at Taube Tennis Stadium and 12 p.m. Saturday at Cal.