For the past four years, the Cal women’s tennis team has been synonymous with one player: Jana Juricova.
The senior from Piestany, Slovakia has become a veritable institution on the courts of the Hellman Tennis Complex, taking the top court for virtually her entire college career. Juricova will trot out onto her home court for her final regular season dual match when the No. 10 Bears (16-5, 8-1 in the Pac-12) take on Fresno State in their final home match of the regular season on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.
Along with Stephany Chang and Catalina Visico, Juricova is part of a senior class that has piloted the team to wins in over three-quarters of their matches since 2009. All three were members of the 2009 team, which reached the NCAA championship match.
Juricova’s four years at Cal have been flush with awards and accolades. In her freshman year, she won the 2009 NCAA doubles championship with teammate – and current Bears assistant coach – Mari Andersson. From 2010 to 2011, Juricova reached the finals of five straight collegiate grand slams, a mark of consistent greatness in the highly variable world of collegiate tennis.
Although the three-time All-American has been hindered by a lower back injury, she has taken advantage of her time on the sidelines, mentoring many of her younger Cal teammates, including freshman star Zsofi Susanyi.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if she decided to coach later on, and I think she’d be a great one,” said Cal coach Amanda Augustus.
Although Juricova will re-enter the professional tennis circuit when the season ends, there is no doubt that she utilized her college education: she represented Cal on the Pac-10 All-Academic team last year.
“It has been a great four years but I think I’m getting ready to start something new,” Juricova said. “I don’t have any expectations (for the pro circuit) because I know it’s going to be different.”
Juricova, along with classmates Chang and Visico, were part of the first full recruiting class that Augustus brought to Berkeley. Although Visico termed the trio “totally different personalities,” all three planned to remain close following their graduation.
“I wouldn’t want to have any other two players with me for the four years,” Juricova said.
Although the pregame Senior Day ceremony will likely be sentimental, the Bears will have to keep their poise against Fresno State (11-7, 3-0 in the WAC). Cal has scored big wins over the Bulldogs in each of the past two years, but Fresno State’s upset win in March 2009 was the Bears’ only home loss of the season.
The match serves as a brief interlude from the fevered Pac-12 conference championship race. The Bears are tied at the top of the conference with USC and UCLA with an 8-1 record, while Stanford sits a half-match back at 7-1. Although Juricova’s legacy will be the primary theme for Tuesday’s match, the team may be looking ahead to Saturday, when they will travel to Stanford with a shot at the conference title.