Juricova in top form in solid weekend for Bears

The Cal women’s tennis team boosted its national reputation in the ITA National Women’s Team Indoor Championships, dominating two matches against esteemed programs before falling to No. 3 Duke, 4-1.

The No. 7 Bears (6-1) advanced to the semifinal of the prestigious Charlottesville, Va., tournament for the third time in the last four years, although the squad was foiled from reaching its first final since 2000.

“I think we are showing that we are one of the contenders this year for the title,” coach Amanda Augustus said. “The best thing is that it’s only February, so we still have time to improve and get better.”

Cal’s 4-0 win Saturday against No. 6 Georgia (7-1) was the highlight of the nascent season. The match featured the latest episode in the rivalry between the top players from both institutions: Cal’s Jana Juricova and Georgia’s Chelsey Gullickson. No. 5 Juricova is the defending NCAA singles champion, a title she earned by ousting Gullickson (the 2010 champion) in the quarterfinals last May. Gullickson, the daughter of a former MLB pitcher, had won the previous four matchups prior to the straight-set defeat last spring.

Juricova dismissed No. 2 Gullickson with ease this weekend, as the Cal senior scored a 6-2, 6-2 victory. The win came moments after Juricova and freshman Zsofi Susanyi beat Gullickson and doubles partner Nadja Gilchrist; the loss will likely drop the Bulldog duo down from their No. 2 spot nationally.

“Jana is really motivated, not only individually, but to get this team to contend for the team title this year,” Augustus said. “That’s what she’s driven by.”

Juricova’s weekend may prove to the collegiate tennis world that the reigning champion is reluctant to relinquish her throne. In a win Friday against No. 11 Miami, Juricova was beating Anna Bartenstein, another top-15 player, and was three games away from victory when the match was called for Cal, 4-0. In the loss against Duke Sunday, Juricova was only one game away from scoring another victory (this time against No. 7 Beatrice Capra) when the Blue Devils earned their fourth point, sealing the match.

Duke, the top seed in the tournament, showcased top-notch depth, as the Blue Devils defeated Cal from the bottom-up. Cal lost its first doubles point of the season, as Juricova and Susanyi were the only Bears able to hold the line. Duke (8-0) won on singles courts four, five and six in straight sets to earn the remainder of their four points.

Although Cal’s sweep Friday against Miami pales in comparison to the team’s accomplishments the next day, it was nonetheless an impressive victory. The back of the rotation that faltered against Duke held its own against the Hurricanes, as Annie Goransson, Anett Schutting and Cecilia Estlander all earned tidy straight-set wins on courts four, five and six.

Three of the four semifinalists in the tournament hailed from the Pac-12. UCLA beat USC for a spot to play Duke in the championship match Monday.

“It’s something we take pride in,” Augustus said of Pac-12 success. “When we aren’t playing each other we are really supporting each other, because it’s better for all of us.”