In unfamiliar territory, Cal women’s tennis is favored to win over Stanford

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The Cal women’s tennis team has not beaten Stanford since April of 2009. And they haven’t beaten Stanford in Palo Alto since 1999.

But when the team travels to Taube Tennis Center on Friday, the No. 9 Bears (4-3) will be in the unfamiliar position of being the favorite over the Cardinal, who sit one place outside the top 25, in the annual Big Slam.

Before that action can take place, the Bears have a match against Sacramento State on Friday at 1:30 p.m. in Berkeley. Barring a major upset, Sacramento State (1-5) should not provide too much of a challenge for Cal’s team, which now features two players ranked in the top 10.

After a strong performance against USC last Saturday, junior Anett Schutting was able to jump to No. 8 in the rankings. Zsofi Susanyi, previously the top-ranked player in the country, dropped to No. 5 after injuries prevented her from playing singles last weekend. Susanyi is still day-to-day, as the coaching staff doesn’t want to push her too hard just for a win early in the season.

“The goal for Zsofi is for when she comes back in for her to be back in the rest of the way,” Cal coach Amanda Augustus said. “We don’t want to overpush it for one match in March when we need her full strength going forward into the rest of the spring.”

While it’s unsure whether Susanyi will come back, the Bears should benefit from the probable return of senior Annie Goransson, who has been out so far this season with a back injury. Goransson usually played on the fourth or fifth court for Cal last season, and her return will expand Cal’s depth.

“Annie’s been doing really well and has been working really hard,” said Augustus. “Hopefully we see her in action this weekend.”

Even without Goransson or Susanyi, the Cal squad has already proved this year that it can win despite injuries after beating USC last weekend without either of them.

And Cal has proven that it can beat teams that Stanford cannot.

So far this year, Stanford and Cal have had one opponent in common – Saint Mary’s. The Bears crushed Saint Mary’s 7-0 in January, while the Cardinal lost to them 4-3 in February.

Despite these good indicators, the Bears are not overconfident.

“Stanford’s loss to Saint Mary’s at home was a bit of a surprise,” said Augustus, “but I think when something like that happens, it probably inspired them to work hard and get back on track.”

Amanda Augustus knows that no matter what the rankings say, Stanford will be a tough opponent, and the match may very well come down to who wins the doubles point.

“The doubles point will be key to beating Stanford this weekend,” she said. “I think we’re a stronger overall team in doubles than they are this year.”

Last year, the Bears lost both games to Stanford, including a 4-3 loss in the last match of the regular season for Cal.

While the players and coaches are treating the game against Cal’s Bay Area rival like any other tough game, Zsofi Susanyi did admit that the team does have one tradition before playing the Cardinal.

“The freshmen are baking brownies,” she said, laughing. “Just for the Stanford match, we bake brownies.”

Riley McAtee covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected]