Ending the regular season with a win is always great. But ending the regular season with a conference win against your biggest rival that also happens to be a top-five team in the country? That would take the cake.
No. 14 Cal women’s tennis (12-6, 6-3) will have the opportunity to do that Saturday at Hellman Tennis Complex in its season finale against No. 4 Stanford (18-1, 9-0).
The Cardinal, who won last year’s game against Cal, are currently riding a 13-match winning streak, with their last loss occurring Feb. 11 against then-No.5 Georgia.
“They’re confident,” said Cal head coach Amanda Augustus of the defending NCAA champions. “They’re returning their whole team, and we know we’re going to have to play hard.”
Stanford is looking to sweep the Pac-12 for the third year in a row. For the Bears to play spoiler, they will likely need the doubles point and more than a few singles upsets.
The Cardinal boast two top-30 pairings, but none are ranked higher than the Bears’ No. 14 Hana Mraz and Julia Rosenqvist.
Both USC and UCLA were able to push Stanford to the very brink of competition, each ultimately losing with a 4-3 score. Replicating any kind of similar result will require some of the same underdog energy that Cal was able to channel earlier in the year at Florida and Pepperdine.
Seven players on Stanford’s roster are ranked in singles, as compared to Cal’s three. The Cardinal have only lost seven points on the top three singles courts all season. Most recently, No. 28 Michaela Gordon lost to UCLA’s No. 56 Jada Hart on March 29. Hart was not defeated by any Cal player in singles in the two matches the teams played this year.
This does not mean, however, that it will be impossible for Cal to find more than one or two points. Gordon, who has recently been playing court one singles for Stanford, is not infallible — in addition to the loss against Hart, she also dropped a point against Santa Clara’s unranked Maddie Pothoff.
The two to Gordon’s one, No. 38 Melissa Lord has a better track record of late, including an impressive win against UCLA’s No. 18 Elysia Bolton. Cal’s top two singles players, No. 43 senior Olivia Hauger and No. 44 sophomore Julia Rosenqvist, will need to steal one if not two of their matches against either of Gordon or Lord for the Bears to have a real chance at the upset.
Cal was swept by Stanford the last time they met in last year’s season finale. Hauger and sophomore Anna Bright are the only current Cal players to have played in that match and not lost their singles matches, as both of them went unfinished, with each Bear in tight competition against their top-ranked opponents.
Winning this match would give the Bears a 7-3 conference record, one win better than last year.
After Stanford, Cal will play in the Pac-12 Tournament from April 24 to 27, looking for revenge against teams such as USC, UCLA and Washington.
Dev Navani covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].