The Cal women’s tennis team will attempt to avoid an early season slip-up against Santa Clara in its first dual match of the year Friday. The Bears have been dominant thus far in the nascent spring season, as the team posted a combined 33-1 record in the Cal Winter Invitational last weekend.
The tussle against the unranked Broncos is the first of four consecutive home tune-up matches over the next three weeks for Cal before it runs the Pac-12 gauntlet. The largest impediment to a season-opening victory for the home team may be the wet weather forecast that may annul the match prior to the 2 p.m. start time.
Last weekend’s triumphant performance for the No. 8 ranked Bears does not bode well for Santa Clara, as the three teams that Cal obliterated are all ranked higher than the Broncos. Throughout various fall tournaments, Cal players have posted a 10-3 mark when matched up against Santa Clara opponents, including seven wins in nine singles matches between the two schools.
However, the duals season presents a different set of challenges, especially for a Cal team rife with underclassmen.
“It’s a different type of pressure with your team counting on you,” Cal coach Amanda Augustus said.
On the top singles court for Cal will be All-American Jana Juricova — the reigning singles champ answered doubts about her motivation by routing the field in her inaugural appearance of 2012. There, she will face reigning West Coast Conference freshman of the year Katie Le, who leads a Santa Clara team without an established rotation.
“We don’t know who plays what for them,” Augustus said. “To prepare, we’ll talk more in general about getting ready. It’s the first go round to get into the routine we want to establish for the rest of the year.”
Juricova, ranked fifth in the country, will be the Bears’ only ranked player suiting up for the match, as No. 21 freshman Sofie Susanyi will sit the next two matches due to NCAA eligibility issues. Susanyi is on a nine-match winning streak and was expected to contribute immediately to the Bears squad. Sophomore Alice Duranteau, whose only loss in her last 13 matches came against the current No. 1 player in the country, may be in the rotation in Susanyi’s stead.
Early season success has become commonplace for the Cal squad, as the team has won its first five matches the past three years. Last year, Annie Goransson, now a junior, was in large part responsible for the early surge, as she captured her first nine duals matches.
The weathervane of the team’s success this weekend may be the Bears’ doubles games. Santa Clara has two established doubles pairings — Le and junior Jessica Agra went 17-3 last year in the top doubles’ court, and juniors Kelly Lamble and Maggie McGeorge were 14-7 overall. Cal’s Juricova-Susanyi combo will be broken up due to the suspension, leaving Goransson and sophomore Anett Schutting (9-1 on the season) as the top duo.