Andersson, Cossou lead Bears into Big Slam

Photo: Jana Juricova is the top-ranked singles player in the nation and is a part of the top-ranked doubles team with Mari Andersson.
Eugene Lau/Staff
Jana Juricova is the top-ranked singles player in the nation and is a part of the top-ranked doubles team with Mari Andersson.

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When senior Mari Andersson steps onto the courts during the Big Slam match, she feels the pressure from the crowd. Every time the Cal women's tennis team plays the Cardinal, the electric atmosphere at Hellman Tennis Complex helps her realize that this is no normal season match.

"On my first Big Slam, we beat Stanford, 6-1," Andersson said. "The atmosphere was so amazing that day. I remember calling my parents that day and compared the match to a Davis Cup final match."

On Saturday at noon, Andersson and the No. 9 Bears (16-5, 6-1 in the Pac-10) will again clash against No. 2 Stanford (21-0, 7-0) in a high-stakes match with the regular season Pac-10 title on the line. If Cal wins, the two squads will share the title.

On March 5, the Cardinal squeezed past by the Bears, 4-3, at Stanford. Although the match was only six weeks ago, Cal has transformed into a completely new squad since then, thanks to the strides the two freshmen, Anett Schutting and Alice Duranteau, have made as the season progressed.

Schutting has been the more impressive freshman in the season. The Estonian, despite struggling earlier in the season, has performed much better, providing a solid option in the back courts.

"We now have two freshmen that have gotten used to the tough matches," Andersson said. "It's an advantage that we have now that we did not have when we played Stanford last time."

For Stanford, not much has changed since its tilt against the Bears. The defending NCAA champions have been invincible for the past year and a half, winning 36 consecutive regular season matches. Led by the triumvirate of No. 3 Hilary Barte, No. 15 Nicole Gibbs and No. 19 Mallory Burdette, the Cardinal have been on cruise control the entire season, rolling past every opponent in sight.

Cal has enough talent to pull off an upset win. No. 1 Jana Juricova, who has maintained a perfect regular season, has developed a personal rivalry with Barte over the past three years. Although Barte has a 3-2 record in regular season against Juricova, the Slovakia native has won the last two contests.

Since the Bears are the underdogs, it will be crucial for them to get the all-important doubles point. After the squad fiddled around with various doubles lineups in past weeks, the Bears' performance in doubles significantly improved, winning the last four doubles points.

Now with a stronger, reassembled squad and home court advantage, Cal feels like it has a strong chance at spoiling Stanford's perfect season.

"Stanford wants to preserve their perfect season and its top rank in the nation," Augustus said. "Really, the pressure's on them going into the match."

Seung Y. Lee covers women's tennis. Contact him at [email protected]

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