W. Tennis: Card hosts two top-five SoCal squads

April 12, 2012, 3:03 a.m.

The undefeated Stanford women’s tennis team is sure to be tested this weekend as two of the top five teams in the nation visit the Farm for conference matches. No. 6 Stanford (15-0, 6-0 Pac-12) will play No. 4 USC on Friday and then No. 1 UCLA on Saturday.

Stanford, which has shut out its opponents in seven straight matches and has not dropped more than two points in a team match all season, is in the unusual position of being the underdog for both matches, at least according to the rankings.

W. Tennis: Card hosts two top-five SoCal squads
Junior Mallory Burdette (above) and the Stanford women's tennis team have a crucial weekend coming up as the Cardinal hosts No. 1 UCLA and No. 4 USC with Pac-12 and national supremacy at stake. (SIMON WARBY/The Stanford Daily)

“We are going in with an underdog mentality even though we think we can win both matches,” said sophomore Nicole Gibbs. “This is definitely the biggest weekend of our regular season.”

Fellow undefeated UCLA has also dominated its opponents this season, recording 11 shutouts on its way to a 20-0 start. The Bruins are tough from the top down, starting at the No. 1 position where No. 4 Robin Anderson will take on Gibbs, who is currently ranked one spot above her at No. 3.

The competitive Gibbs, who is well aware of Robinson’s rise to the No. 4 ranking this week, noted the added importance that national ranking implications give to her match. Gibbs has lost only once this year during Stanford’s regular season, a three-setter to Florida’s Allie Will, who is currently ranked No. 1 in the country.

“I’m looking forward to a tough, competitive weekend,” said Gibbs, who will also face the No. 20 player in the nation in USC’s Zoe Scandalis.

Looking past the No. 1 spot, the entire Stanford team feels it has something to prove this weekend. The Cardinal lost its top ranking earlier in the season due to questions about its strength of schedule, despite being undefeated and having beaten defending national champion Florida.

“This weekend will be defining,” said junior Natalie Dillon. “If we win we know we are the best team in the country.”

USC also brings an impressive record into the weekend, which means Stanford cannot overlook either team. USC is 18-2 overall, with both losses coming to UCLA.

“We need to be fighting for every point all weekend because both teams are really going to push us,” Gibbs said.

USC and UCLA each have four nationally ranked singles players, the same number as Stanford, and all of their players have experience playing against quality opponents.

“There will be a lot of depth on both of these teams, and hopefully we will prove to be the deeper team,” Gibbs said.

Dillon, anchoring the No. 6 spot this weekend, is one of the players at the back end for Stanford — a spot that is critical to pick up team wins. She called the matches this weekend “two of the biggest matches of my time here at Stanford,” especially because most teams across the country do not have such quality players filling out their rosters.

This weekend will also be crucial in deciding who the eventual Pac-12 champion will be. Stanford has a long history of winning the conference, and winning the final three matches of the season would guarantee another regular season championship. Both UCLA and USC are also undefeated in Pac-12 play, though, so a loss this weekend would severely hurt Stanford’s chances of taking that trophy.

Rain is forecasted for this Friday, which means the USC match could be moved to Sunday if the courts are unplayable. Currently, though, Friday’s match against USC is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and Saturday’s match against UCLA is at 12:00 p.m. Both matches will take place at the Taube Family Tennis Center.

Login or create an account