Women’s tennis hosts trio of ranked teams in opening Pac-12 weekend

March 7, 2013, 11:14 p.m.

The Stanford women’s tennis team prepares for an uncharacteristic three-day stretch of matches this weekend as it hosts No. 31 Washington, No. 73 Washington State and No. 38 Texas. The No. 20 Cardinal’s (5-2, 0-0 Pac-12) battles against Washington and Washington State will mark its first two conference matchups of the season.

Stanford’s most recent 6-1 victory over then-No. 9 Cal put it back on a winning streak after suffering a key loss to then-No. 2 Florida two weekends ago.

“We were definitely very pleased with the result,” said freshman Lindsey Kostas, “and I think the win will give us more confidence and momentum going into this weekend.”

Ellen Tsay
Sophomore Ellen Tsay and Stanford women’s tennis look to build off last week’s victory over Cal heading into a three-match weekend. (IAN GARCIA-DOTY/The Stanford Daily)

That momentum will be crucial as Stanford tries to dispatch three teams in a row. The first match will feature Washington, the highest ranked of Stanford’s three opponents, on Friday, followed by Washington State on Saturday and Texas on Sunday morning to round out the marathon.

The Cardinal hasn’t played Texas since 2010 but easily moved past its conference foes from up north last year, capturing a 6-1 victory over Washington and shutting out Washington State 7-0. The players are still focused entering the weekend.

“We have been practicing with more energy and more focus,” said Kostas.  “The coaches give us a game plan, tell us specific drills that we will be doing, and then we go out and try to execute the plan.”

These more systematized practices represent a change in structure that was implemented after the Florida match and has propelled the team forward since. The team hopes to translate its high level of intensity in practice to this weekend’s matches.

“I think we all have learned that every team comes to play and that we cannot take any player or team lightly,” Kostas said.

Junior captains Nicole Gibbs and Kristie Ahn and senior captain Natalie Dillon will lead Stanford this weekend. Nationally ranked No. 14 freshman Krista Hardebeck will be holding down court two as she attempts to improve her dual match record to 4-4. Senior Stacey Tan, the only member of the team to participate in the 2010 match against Texas, will manage court four.

Kostas, who anchors the back of the lineup for the Cardinal as one of the two freshmen on the team, will be concentrating on her mental game.

“It can get very frustrating at times when you are not playing well, but no matter how difficult it may seem to stay tough, it is something that has to be done,” Kostas said. “It’s the only way that you will be able to pull out the win, and it helps your teammates play better if they see that you are not giving in.”

For sophomore Ellen Tsay, who manned court five against Cal, it’s about speed.

“I want to continue to improve my footwork on all fronts,” Tsay said, “especially so that I can move forward faster to the net.”

Tsay hopes that increasing her speed and fitness will help her stay in the match physically.

“Our team tends to be known for taking the first opportunity to attack,” Tsay said, “but this year we also want to be known as the team who will grind it out to the last point and do whatever it takes.”

The Cardinal takes to the Taube Family Tennis Courts Friday against Washington at 1:30 p.m. The matches continue as the team battles Washington State Saturday at noon and closes out the weekend against Texas on Sunday at 10 a.m.

Contact Chrissy Jones at chrissyj “at” stanford.edu.

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