By Yousef Hindy
No. 20 Stanford women’s tennis (9-4, 4-1 Pac-12) will take on No. 38 Oregon (11-3, 3-1) at home on Saturday. Then, on Sunday, the Cardinal will travel to Berkeley to face perennial rival No. 1 Cal (15-0, 4-0).
The Cardinal have shown promise this season, but they have also struggled against the top-ranked teams that they need to beat to achieve their goal of winning a national championship. This weekend will therefore give Stanford an opportunity to prove its mettle against the best team in the country.
The Cardinal team has faced a tough string of matches to begin the season, as seven of their 13 opponents have been ranked in the top-25. The matchup against Cal will also not be the first time this season that Stanford plays a top-ranked team, as they fell to Vanderbilt earlier in the season when it was ranked No. 1 in the nation.
Despite its strong schedule, Stanford has been able to pull out gutsy wins, such as the 4-3 win over then-No. 7 ranked Florida, in which senior Krista Hardebeck clinched the final match in dramatic fashion. Wins like these have shown that the squad can take down any competition.
The last two contests have been a breeze for the young team, as it steamrolled past both No. 65 Utah and unranked Colorado, 7-0. This weekend will not be so easy for the Cardinal, as Oregon and Cal both hold better records than Stanford, but Hardebeck’s confidence in her team is evident.
“We know NCAAs are in sight,” she said. “We have been taking the court with a new intensity knowing that we have to clean up anything that we have to do.”
With star junior Carol Zhao back in the lineup at No. 1, the Cardinal will be playing with a stronger lineup than they have been this season. Although her top spot in singles is set, her doubles partner has been more uncertain recently. In the most recent matchup with Utah, she played with freshman Kimberly Yee while against Colorado she was paired with freshman Melissa Lord.
The doubles point will be essential for Stanford against the two strong teams this weekend. Although the Cardinal have only dropped the doubles point twice this season, their last loss to No. 11 Pepperdine, with a final score of 4-3, came down to the doubles in the end.
Stanford will therefore look to juniors Taylor Davidson and Caroline Doyle, the No. 4-ranked doubles team in the nation, to lead the charge against the No. 6-ranked juniors Maegan Manasse and Denise Starr from Cal.
While this is the only matchup of the season against Oregon, Stanford will have another shot at Cal on April 16 in the final match of the season before the Pac-12 and NCAA championships.
Stanford will play Oregon first on Saturday at home at 12 p.m. The team will then travel to Berkeley on Sunday to play Cal at 11 a.m. The second match will be broadcast live on Pac-12 Networks.
Contact Yousef Hindy at yhindy ‘at’ stanford.edu.