Senior Jana Juricova will be looking to cap off her career with another crowning achievement as she leads the Cal women’s tennis team to Stanford for its final regular-season match. If the No. 10 Bears pull out a victory, it will guarantee them a share of the Pac-12 title; the other half of the conference crown will go to the winner of USC and UCLA, who square off on Friday.
Getting a win Saturday at the Taube Family Tennis Center will be a tall order for Cal (17-5, 8-1 in the Pac-12), which has not beaten the Cardinal since April 2009, Juricova’s freshman season. The last time No. 6 Stanford (16-1, 7-1) did not successfully defend its home court in the rivalry match was in February of 1999.
Following that loss over a decade ago, the Cardinal went on a 157-match regular season home winning streak, which was busted last Saturday in a 5-2 loss to No. 1 UCLA. The Bruins were coming off their first loss of the season — which came against Cal — giving the Bears a logical backing to their quest for victory.
“The door is wide open,” said senior Catie Visico.
When the teams met in Berkeley in early March, Stanford came away with a 5-2 win. However, Cal was without Juricova, who missed time with a lower back strain.
The focus of the match will likely be on the top two players for each side. Juricova’s return allows No. 11 Zsofi Susanyi — one of the top freshmen in the country — to play on the second court, where she has gone 7-1 on the year. Together, Juricova and Susanyi have garnered wins in their last 13 matches, a streak that stretches back to October.
If Susanyi and Juricova are the Stockton and Malone of collegiate tennis, then their Stanford adversaries – Mallory Burdette and Nicole Gibbs – are Kareem and Magic. Burdette and Gibbs are ranked fourth and fifth in the nation, respectively, and together are No. 2 in doubles. On the top court, Gibbs is 15-2 with wins over eight top-30 opponents this season.
Burdette, who leads her team with a 30-4 record, has posted a flawless mark for the Cardinal on the second court.
Because of a rained-out match against Washington State, Stanford will fall one win short of the title, even if the team extends its six-match winning streak against Cal. The Bears will be looking for their first-ever share of the title.
“Our victory over UCLA and their victory (over Stanford) really opened things up,” said Cal coach Amanda Augustus. “Playing for the title was one of (the team’s) goals for this segment of the season.”
Although the conference championship means little in the way of national implications, it would be a fitting conclusion for Juricova, who is soon to enter into the pantheon of Cal greats.
“It’s exciting because it’s Stanford, but it’s also exciting because we have a chance to beat them,” Juricova said.