MORAGA, Calif. — Experience proved not to be necessary in the Saint Mary’s Invitational, as first-time Cal competitors were the highlight of the weekend.
Sophomore Alice Duranteau won the second-tier singles tournament, working her way through five matches to nab the trophy. Duranteau is now 15-1 since April, beginning the run with an impressive win at the Pac-10 Invitational tournament to close out last season.
“I started not as confident as I wanted, but I learned to compete better and really adapt to my opponents’ game,” Duranteau said. “I had to push myself and challenge myself to things I’m not comfortable doing.”
This weekend, Duranteau was striking the ball well, taking calculated risks making smart adjustments that enabled her to come out on top.
“I think she did a good job of staying calmer and more mentally focused than she did when she first got here,” Cal coach Amanda Augustus said. “She’s just had a lot more confidence in her game and moves around the court and I think that what we recruited her for.”
This is Duranteau’s first fall tournament season, as she joined the team for the start of the 2011 calendar year. She was bothered by a shin injury, which diminished the consistency of her play, as she went .500 in duals matches.
Duranteau was not the only first-time visitor to the Moraga, Calif. tournament to play well. Freshman Cecilia Estlander, whose parents made the trip from Finland, got into the semifinals of the main draw but was ousted in three sets. Estlander played skillfully and had many well constructed points that advanced her in the bracket. Estlander knocked out No. 3 seed Katie Le of Santa Clara in an exhaustive quarterfinal match, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5.
Cal’s other freshman, Sofie Susanyi, advanced to the quarterfinals but hurt her arm in a doubles match on Saturday morning. Susanyi, who was paired with Estlander, lost the match 4-8 and withdrew before a much-anticipated singles matchup with top freshman Ellen Tsay of Stanford, seeded No. 4.
Although these three will be in the mix for the duals season, Augustus acknowledges that the doubles point may be a concern in what looks to be a strong Cal singles lineup.
“There’s lot of work to do finding the right partnerships and solidifying doubles skills and tactics,” Augustus said. “When we complete fall tournaments, that’s an area we’ll work on.”
The other doubles squad of Duranteau and senior Stephany Chang lost their first round matchup, and Chang failed to advance in singles, losing 4-6, 0-6 in the first round. Augustus said that the top two doubles combinations for the Bears may be rejiggered for future tournaments after limited success so far this year.
The attitude that the team has work left on the table is present in Duranteau, even after her tournament crown.
“I want to improve physically,” Duranteau said. “My strokes are okay, but I need to last longer on the court to reach more balls and work on physical conditioning.”