After a brief lapse in dual match play due to dead week and finals, it’s taken the Stanford women’s tennis team no time at all to once again demonstrate its dominance. Stanford looks to continue its undefeated season with a win over Bay Area rival Santa Clara this Saturday.
The No. 6 Cardinal (14-0, 6-0 Pac-12) will be aiming high in its final nonconference match of the season against the unranked Broncos. In the past two weeks, Stanford has delivered four straight devastating blows to its opponents. The Stanford women defeated No. 51 UNLV, No. 27 Arizona State, No. 28 Arizona and most recently the unranked Cal Poly Mustangs, all without dropping a match.
“All of us did a good job of getting a lot of court time during dead week and finals week, so it wasn’t difficult at all to get back into the groove of things,” explained freshman Ellen Tsay. “Every one of us has been really motivated and disciplined this year, whether it is extra workouts or practicing on our own.”
Senior captain Veronica Li described the importance of maintaining momentum for the squad as the Cardinal enters the last full month of competitive dual match play before the Pac-12 Championship in late April and the NCAA tournament in May.
“I think the team is looking really good, and our goal is the national championship in May, so we are still building towards that,” Li acknowledged. “Hopefully we’ll keep getting better each day and be ready to compete at our best come time.”
Santa Clara (8-7) will commute to the Farm on Saturday morning in hopes of coming away with a victory against the strong Cardinal squad. It will most likely be sophomore Nicole Gibbs facing the Broncos’ No. 1 singles player, sophomore Katie Le, on court one. However, Tsay has played Le before, as both girls were top Northern California junior players. Le was named the WCC Women’s Tennis Singles Player of the Month on Thursday and, coming off an 11-match win streak, will lead her team in the fight.
“As always, we are going to concentrate on playing our game and keeping our focus against them,” Tsay said.
Despite the Cardinal’s recent success at this critical point in the season, its six consecutive shutouts don’t necessarily accurately represent the toughness of each match.
“My singles match against Cal Poly was a mental test because it was the first time I played on court three,” Tsay said. “My opponent was tricky to play in the windy conditions. I went up 3-0 in the first set and then it went back to 3-all, but during the critical time, I was ‘resilient,’ as coach Lele put it.”
Resilient she was, executing a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Kathryn Webb and securing her first stadium victory.
Doubles play has continued to be a strength of the Stanford team, as the No. 1 pairing of junior Mallory Burdette and Gibbs remains undefeated and the No. 2 pairing of junior Stacey Tan and Tsay continues to improve.
“[Tan] and I work really well together and have gotten really good at anticipating each other’s tendencies as the season has progressed,” Tsay said. “We’ve been doing a lot of doubles drills during practice, and that has helped us hone our strategies.”
The No. 3 team of junior Natalie Dillon and Li has also been dominant against recent opponents. Continued strong doubles performances will be needed in the final weeks of the regular season. After this weekend’s match against Santa Clara, the Cardinal will face three conference rivals consecutively: No. 4 USC, No. 1 UCLA and finally No. 9 Cal, whom the Cardinal dismantled 5-2 in an earlier meeting this season that did not count towards conference standings.
For now, the Stanford women’s tennis team is focusing solely on defeating Santa Clara at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday at the Taube Family Tennis Center.