STANFORD, Calif. – The No. 10 Cal women’s tennis team was denied a portion of the Pac-12 title, falling 4-3 to No. 6 Stanford in the annual Big Slam on Saturday.
For the first time in three years, Cal went 0-3 on the top three singles courts, as Stanford’s Mallory Burdette and Nicole Gibbs proved too much for the visiting Bears (17-6, 8-2 in the Pac-12) at the Taube Family Tennis Center. Playing on the top court, Burdette and Gibbs scored an 8-6 victory over Jana Juricova and Zsofi Susanyi of Cal to earn Stanford (17-1, 8-1 Pac-12) the doubles point.
Juricova and Susanyi went down 4-1 before tying the match at 6-6 in the meeting of four collegiate tennis heavyweights. The four showcased an almanac of tennis shots – drops, lobs, smashes – yet Burdette and Gibbs were able to capture the critical thirteenth game, leading to a 1-0 Cardinal lead.
“The doubles point was key for sure,” Cal coach Amanda Augustus said. “Stanford usually comes out pretty quick in doubles, and we know that.”
Although the Bears did tighten the score, the home crowd never saw the Stanford lead — or the midday sun — disappear.
Burdette and Gibbs extended their side’s dominance over Cal — Stanford has won six straight in the rivalry – into the singles matches. Playing on the second court against Susanyi, Burdette scorched the tape repeatedly, netting her third singles win against Cal this season.
On the top court, Juricova and Gibbs squared off for the second time this season. Playing in her final regular season match, Juricova took a 3-1 lead, but Gibbs forced her into a first-set tiebreak in front of a raucous home crowd.
Juricova was repeatedly tripped up by unforced errors. In the tiebreak, she missed a wide-open slam and went down 4-1, eliciting cries of delight from the Cardinal faithful. After taking the tiebreak, Gibbs stood her ground to win the second set and clinch the match for Stanford.
Cal’s success came on the back three courts, an area that has developed significantly over the course of the year. In a four-match losing streak beginning in February, the back three courts were just 3-9; over the last four matches, the back of the lineup has gone 9-3.
On the fifth court, Annie Goransson added to her team-best 19-2 duals record with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Veronica Li, a Stanford senior honored before the match.
“She’s slowly developed into the heart of the team,” Augustus said. “Annie is a real worker and she grinds her opponents.”
Stanford must win Wednesday in a makeup match against Washington State to get part of the Pac-12 title. No. 4 USC has already captured at least a share of the conference crown, scoring a momentous 6-1 upset win at No. 1 UCLA on Friday.
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