The No. 8 Cal women’s tennis team heads to Palo Alto on Sunday to take on No. 7 Stanford in a match that promises to be an exciting one full of emotional intensity from both the teams. Teams rarely achieve favorable results at the Cardinal’s home court, but the Bears ironed out a victory a year ago to capture their maiden Pac-12 Championship and will look to win again.
Cal fell in the latest rankings from fourth to eighth, owing to a loss to USC on Friday, while Stanford has risen from 14th to seventh. The Bears currently boast a record of 6-2, while the Cardinal has a record of 7-1.
Cal’s latest victory came against a formidable UCLA side — the defending national champion. In spite of losing the early doubles point, the Bears clawed back to win four singles games to clinch the victory. No. 2 Maegan Manasse, a sophomore, led the Bears on court No. 1 with her hard-fought victory against Chanelle Van Nguyen.
With a few matches completed, head coach Amanda Augustus might make a few lineup tweaks in order to get an idea of how her team works on different courts as well as to probably gain a tactical edge.
“A lot of people are playing well and getting better,” Augustus said. “So yeah, there is a possibility of some changes. Maybe different courts could come into play.”
Along with the crucial doubles point, Cal will also be looking for clutch performances from No. 61 Denise Starr, a sophomore, and No. 41 Karla Popovic, a freshman. Both of them have been very consistent in their past few matches and come into the match with three back-to-back victories in singles. Starr’s ability to hit powerful groundstrokes and move the ball around the court and Popovic’s court coverage, as well as a potent forehand, have wreaked havoc on their opponents.
Manasse, too, has been a player who thrives in clutch situations, as evidenced in her matchup against the Bruins’ Van Nguyen. Manasse’s Kim Clijsters-like capability to dictate the pace of the game with her forehand and move to the net when required has been very valuable to the Bears’ gameplay. It will be interesting to see if Stanford pits a strong baseline player against her, which might cause Manasse to readjust her strategy mid-game.
The Bears seem to be confident ahead of this game after a victory against UCLA.
“This weekend was a big mental test for us,” said junior Klara Fabikova, who is the No. 42 singles player. “We were able to bounce back really well, and this will help us against Stanford.”
After a loss to UCLA in doubles, the Bears will look to rework some strategies in that area.
“We are working on our volleys and overheads in doubles,” Augustus said. “We are also working on slices and some change of pace shots. A variety of shots will be key.”
For the Bears to come away with a victory, they will need to be mentally strong and not let the game get away from them, especially in doubles. The pairing of Popovic and junior Lynn Chi dropped the match against UCLA in spite of leading 7-4 at one point. Another instance like that could prove to be very costly for the Bears in this dual match against the Cardinal.
No. 24 senior Zsofi Susanyi had a few disappointing matches where she fought valiantly, but her unforced errors led to a lot of service breaks that ultimately resulted in losses for her. She will look to reduce those errors and try to dictate the game in the matchup against Stanford.
Stanford also has a host of ranked players in its roster and will be a tough competitor. Add to that the support of the home crowd, which will be an added bonus for the Cardinal. The Bears, however, have defeated Stanford there in the past and will look to do so again.
“I have some level of confidence going in, and I know Stanford is a high level of tennis,” Starr said. “I will go in there and give 100 percent in every match, and so will the whole team.”
Fabikova added, “We have great memories of beating them there last year, and we would like to get the win over there again.”
Devang Prasad covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].