The rainy weather in the Bay Area last weekend proved to be an unavoidable obstacle for the USC women’s tennis team.
First, the No. 18 Women of Troy (11-7, 3-1) headed to Palo Alto, Calif., to take on No. 12 Stanford (14-1, 3-0) on Friday. Because of the threat of rain, Stanford and USC agreed to play singles before doubles, but only five of the six matches managed to finish even a single game in the first set before the rain poured down.
With more rain forecasted, the match was postponed to Sunday. Stanford and USC were also previously rained out on Feb. 27 in Los Angeles in a Pac-10 exhibition match.
On Sunday morning, the match resumed though risk of rain persisted. Again, the teams began with singles play. Stanford picked up two quick wins on courts four and six, as USC junior Lyndsay Kinstler fell 6-1, 6-1, and USC freshman Valeria Pulido lost 6-1, 6-3.
But the Women of Troy were quick to tie it back up 2-2, posting wins from both sophomore Alison Ramos and freshman Danielle Lao in three-set matches. No. 26 Ramos upended her Stanford opponent, No. 61 Lindsay Burdette, 6-3, 6-3. Meanwhile, No. 30 Lao had a little more trouble taking down No. 69 Stacey Tan of Stanford. Lao lost the first set 4-6 but came back to finish off Tan in the next two sets, 6-1, 6-4.
Stanford retaliated with a victory on court five, putting Stanford back in the lead 3-2. This left the match in the hands of Stanford’s No. 8 Hilary Barte and USC’s No. 2 junior Maria Sanchez at the top court.
Sanchez took the first set 6-3, but Barte didn’t stop without a hard-fought battle, getting the second set over Sanchez 6-4. During their third set, the rain began to fall again, forcing the match indoors. In the end, it was Sanchez who had the last word. She triumphed over four match points, racking in a tough third-set win in a tiebreaker 8-6.
“It took mental toughness, skill and heart to win that match. We are all very proud of her,” Ramos said of Sanchez’s win.
This left the match even at 3-3, as the rain caused the doubles matches to be suspended. The doubles action will be resumed at the Pac-10 championships in Ojai, Calif., on April 22, but only if the result is needed to decide the Pac-10 conference champion.
Sanchez said she was disappointed that she couldn’t continue play.
“I was hoping to play the doubles point since I definitely felt like we had the momentum going,” she said.
Ramos also agreed with Sanchez, as she had hoped her team could break Stanford’s 159-match winning streak at home.
“It is a little frustrating we couldn’t finish the match and that there is no winner or loser,” Ramos said. “It’s an odd feeling to tell other people that we’re tied.”
The Women of Troy felt their performance against the Cardinal was a good indication of how good they can actually be.
“It was invigorating to tie it back up,” Lao said. “We had our top three players beat their top three, which shows the potential that we have. Now we just need to get to a point where we can all perform well on the same day to clinch a big win.”
The day before continuing the match with Stanford, USC faced No. 12 Cal (14-4, 2-1). Though the weather was clear, USC couldn’t pull off the upset and lost to the Bears 5-2.
After doubles and four singles matches, Cal gained control of the match 3-2. The deciding singles matches both ended with close three-setters in Cal’s favor.
Cal’s No. 3 Jana Juricova ended Sanchez’s nine-game winning streak in a three-set match, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3. The two had previously dueled in another three-setter in February at Marks Stadium, where Sanchez handed Juricova one of her few losses of the season.
The Bears continued to power through even though they already clinched the match. Ramos struggled to finish off Cal’s No. 44 Mari Andersson on court two. Ramos took the first set but fell in the second, 3-6. With the final set knotted at four-all, Andersson held serve to go up 5-4 and then broke Ramos for a 6-4 win. Andersson managed the comeback to wrap up the Bears’ second 5-2 decision over USC this season.
“It’s difficult to tell whether we will play the point against Stanford considering our chances of winning the Pac-10 team title,” Ramos said. “In order for us to win the title, we must remain undefeated for the rest of the matches and we must count on other teams to lose.”
USC will play Arizona State and Arizona at home this weekend.