The stage is set for a classic showdown.
Rivalry match? Check. Top-15 teams? Check. Possible title on the line? Check.
When the Cal women’s tennis team takes on Stanford on Friday at the Hellman Tennis Complex at 12:30 p.m., the stakes will be as high as they have been for any match this season.
The match could determine a share of the conference title.
At the same time Cal and Stanford are battling, USC will be playing its own rival in UCLA. If the Trojans lose that match, then the winner of the Cal-Stanford match will share the Pac-12 title with USC.
Although USC is favored over UCLA and beat the Bruins earlier in the season, anything can happen in a rivalry match — something the No. 9 Bears are fully aware of.
Despite Cal’s superior ranking, the No. 12 Cardinal (16-3, 8-1 in the Pac-12) have had the Bears’ number in recent years.
Cal has dropped its last seven dual meets against the Cardinal. The Bears (14-5, 8-1) have not beaten Stanford since April of 2009 — including a loss to the Cardinal in Palo Alto in March.
In that loss, Cal was without sophomore Zsofi Susanyi and senior Annie Goransson, both of whom will play in Friday’s tilt.
Susanyi is the No. 5 singles player in the country, and since her return from injury, she has yet to drop a singles match.
Goransson returned immediately after that match against Stanford and has gone 7-2 in singles since, jumping between courts No. 5 and No. 6.
The return of those two players gives the Bears the advantage of being able to tinker with their lineup in ways they couldn’t in their last match with the Cardinal.
“We’re making a couple of adjustments in doubles,” said Cal Coach Amanda Augustus. “And we’ll definitely give Stanford a different look singleswise.”
It’s been so long since Cal beat Stanford that the two seniors on the squad — Goransson and Tayler Davis — have never done so.
Unless Cal ends up hosting the first rounds of the NCAAs, this will be its last match in Hellman as well as its last chance to knock off Stanford.
“Annie and Tay have contributed tremendously to the success of the program over the last four years,” Augustus said. “To have both of our seniors out there on the court competing on senior day is exciting.”
For Goransson, beating Stanford for the first time in her four years at Cal would be the ultimate farewell.
“That would be pretty big,” Goransson said. “I know we have a good chance, and if we were to beat them, though, that would mean a lot to me. And a lot to the team.”
But Goransson is not focused on the end of her career just yet. She is still working so that Cal can have success in the tournaments that come after the regular season.
“(Playing tennis for Cal has) meant so much to me, it’s hard to express it,” Goransson said. “But I’m not thinking too much about it right now because we have the NCAAs and everything coming up.”
Riley McAtee covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected]