The Stanford women’s tennis team will close out its regular season with a hugely important conference rematch against cross-bay rival California this weekend.
The first matchup, which No. 5 Stanford (16-1, 7-1 Pac-12) won 5-2 in early March, did not count toward Pac-12 standings. With the conference title race completely up in the air after UCLA beat Stanford last weekend, No. 10 Cal (17-5, 8-1 Pac-12) will have the chance to avenge its loss and capture its own piece of the Pac-12 title.
Junior Mallory Burdette, who has accumulated a 30-4 overall record at the No. 2 spot and is riding a 16-match singles winning streak, described the Cardinal’s sentiment entering this week after its loss to the Bruins last weekend.
“I think the loss helps to reenergize everybody,” said Burdette. “We sat down after the match and talked about what we wanted to change in order to improve, and I think it’s a good time to refocus before our last match of the season.”
The last time these two top-10 teams played, Stanford captured the doubles point with wins on all three courts. Burdette acknowledged that No. 6 nationally ranked Jana Juricova, who captured the NCAA singles title last May, was absent from the lineup in March but will be a formidable force this weekend in both singles and doubles. She will most likely appear alongside freshman Zsofi Susanyi, across the net from Stanford’s top duo of Burdette and No. 4 nationally ranked sophomore Nicole Gibbs. The top doubles pairings from both schools together have a collective record of 39-4.
“[Juricova] makes things tough because if you leave the ball sitting, she will put it away,” Burdette explained. “She’s tall and has a big serve. [Juricova and Susanyi] are both good at net and have great volleys, but they’re not unbeatable.”
In singles, Burdette and Gibbs both captured victories in the first meeting. Junior Stacey Tan lost her singles match to Cal’s Anett Schutting, while sophomore Kristie Ahn was defeated by Annie Goransson. Freshman Ellen Tsay defeated Cecilia Estlander and senior captain Veronica Li cleaned up with a win over Alice Duranteau. However, there is no guarantee that Stanford’s players will be facing the same Cal players, as Burdette described the unpredictability of Cal’s lineup. She does know, however, that she’ll most likely be facing Susanyi on Court 2, whom Gibbs defeated last time.
“I’ve never played her before and I’m looking forward to it,” said Burdette. “She hits a nice ball that is more in my strike zone. Last time I played Tayler Davis, who is much more scrappy and doesn’t hit the balls as cleanly, which made it more difficult for me to take advantage of the low ball.”
No matter what will be thrown at the Cardinal players, they plan on being ready.
“We created a plan after last weekend to help us concentrate this week,” Burdette described. “For example, on Monday we planned on doing more baseline drills, working on hitting and movement. Tuesday was going to be set day, and Wednesday was all about doubles.
Burdette mentioned that the team even brought in her older sister, Lindsay Burdette, as well as former player Lilia Osterloh to help push them, get that extra ball back and assist with doubles practice.
With the Pac-12 virtually tied, both Stanford and Cal are looking for a victory this weekend to gain at least a portion of the Pac-12 title. If Stanford were to win, it would need to also play Washington State prior to the start of the Pac-12 tournament as a makeup for a previously rained-out contest.
“One of our first goals of the season was to get the Pac-12 title,” Burdette said. “We are definitely going out there wanting to win, but as long as people are moving in the right direction and working on the right things the bigger picture will be okay.”
The rematch, which will also mark Senior Day as it is the final matchup of the regular season, will take place at the Taube Family Tennis Center at noon on Saturday.