There’s nothing quite like an annual sports tradition. From Super Bowl Sunday to the weekend of the Masters to any matchup between Cal and Stanford. For women’s tennis, the tradition that gets everyone amped up is the annual Big Slam between cardinal and white and blue and gold.
“I think I know our team, and I’m sure their team is really looking forward to it,” said Cal head coach Amanda Augustus. “Whether it’s at their place or our place, it’s always a great end to the regular season. It usually gets both teams sharp for the postseason.”
With this year’s occasion taking place in Palo Alto, the Bears will make the short trek down south Friday morning. Waiting for them is a Cardinal roster that has yet to drop a conference match this season, placing the pressure on a Cal team that is coming off arguably its biggest win of the year.
The Bears’ 4-3 win on the road against Washington State allowed them to leapfrog the Cougars in the Pac-12 standings. Cal now finds itself in fourth place behind Stanford, UCLA and Arizona State with one weekend remaining before postseason play.
While the Bears still have a chance to clinch third place with a win and an Arizona State loss, the Sun Devils will be in Tucson to take on their own rival in Arizona — a team that is 0-9 in conference play.
To add to the energy and pressure that’s packaged within this storied rivalry, Pac-12 Networks will be broadcasting the game on television, as Stanford takes aim at an undefeated conference season.
Accentuated by the performances of freshman Anna Bright and junior Olivia Hauger, the Bears have played at an elite level over the past several weeks in singles. But the No. 20 Cardinal are in a class of their own, sporting six nationally ranked singles competitors, led by sophomore Emily Arbuthnott and junior Melissa Lord.
As Cal split its weekend against the Huskies and Cougars, Stanford extended its win streak to 10 with 4-2 wins against both Washington and Washington State. Even with a nearly unstoppable singles core, much of the Cardinal’s success can be attributed to a winning formula in doubles.
Stanford sports the No. 3 doubles pairing in the nation with Arbuthnott and freshman Michaela Gordon, the Cardinal’s primary court one singles player.
While Augustus and Cal’s coaching staff are familiar with the likes of Arbuthnott and Lord from past seasons, Gordon represents a new challenge for one of Cal’s own freshman this weekend, whether it be Bright or fellow freshman Julia Rosenqvist.
As if Arbuthnott and Gordon are enough of a challenge, Stanford has yet another doubles pairing that has also wrecked havoc throughout conference play. Even if the Bears send their top pairing to face Stanford’s nationally acclaimed duo, the Cardinal also possess the No. 56 doubles team of juniors Kimberly Yee and Caroline Lampl — a pairing that is 11-1 in dual matches this season.
With Cal’s doubles issues, it will be difficult to envision a shocker of this magnitude on Stanford’s home courts. But if history has a say in how things will play out, anything can happen between these two schools. Just ask the 1982 Stanford football team.
One thing’s for sure — the past few weeks are behind the Bears, and their head coach is predicting a close contest.
“It will shape up to be a really good match, because I think we match up well, and we always have great matches with them at every position,” Augustus said.