MORAGA, Calif. -- A trip to the Pacific Northwest last week brought two tough matches for the Saint Mary's women's tennis team but the challenges don't stop there for the No. 38-ranked Gaels as this week's schedule features two of the top teams in the nation.
Action begins Thursday at 4 p.m. when Saint Mary's visits No. 3 Stanford to make up a match that was rained out earlier in the month. The Gaels head to Stanford again on Saturday for a 1 p.m. match against No. 5 Florida.
Saint Mary's earned a split last week in Seattle, beating No. 54 San Diego State 4-3 and dropping a 4-3 decision to No. 41 Washington. That left the Gaels' overall record at 3-2, with all five matches coming against teams ranked in the top 60 nationally.
The Gaels have gotten some outstanding singles play from up and down the lineup this season, starting with No. 13 ranked Jenny Jullien. The defending West Coast Conference Player of the Year is 6-0 this spring, with four wins coming over ranked opponents. Jullien's latest big win came last Saturday when she defeated No. 35 Laura Antonana Iriarte of San Diego State in straight sets.
Jullien hasn't been alone in posting good numbers early in the season. No. 5 singles player Catherine Leduc has been a force at the bottom of the lineup, and enters this week with a 6-1 record. Jamie Pawid is ranked No. 46 in the country and is 5-2 while Jade Frampton has also been strong and carries a 5-2 record of her own into play this week.
Stanford enters Thursday's match at a perfect 5-0 after earning a lopsided 7-0 victory over Santa Clara last Friday. The Cardinal dominated singles against the Broncos, with a Santa Clara player reaching 4 games in a set only once. A potential showdown at No. 1 singles looms for Thursday's match, as No. 5-ranked Kristie Ahn should line up opposite Jullien in a rematch of this fall's ITA Northwest Regional final.
Ahn isn't the only standout for Stanford, as five of the Cardinal's six singles players are nationally ranked. The one who isn't, sophomore Krista Hardebeck, battled injuries this fall after spending the entire 2013 season in the national rankings. Hardebeck usually plays at No. 2 for Stanford, with Carol Zhao, Taylor Davidson, Ellen Tsay and Caroline Doyle likely to round out the lineup.
The task gets no easier on Saturday when the Gaels square off with the Gators at Stanford. Florida defeated rival Florida State 7-0 on Tuesday to improve to 7-1 on the season. The No. 5-ranked Gators will play Stanford on Sunday before returning to Gainesville.
Just like Stanford, depth is the name of the game for Florida. All six of the Gators' singles players are ranked in the top 40 nationally, led by Olivia Janowicz at No. 11. Brianna Morgan is ranked No. 14, followed by Alexandra Cercone (29), Sofie Oyen (31), Kourtney Keegan (34) and Belinda Woolcock (38).
This week's action isn't a one-week foray into tough competition for Saint Mary's. Next up is a trip to Los Angeles next week to take on another pair of top 10 teams in USC and UCLA. The Gaels finally return to Korth Tennis Complex on March 7 to host Texas Tech.