For most, going to Malibu, California, is all about taking it easy and enjoying the most leisurely aspects of life. For No. 8 Cal women’s tennis, going to Malibu means putting everything that it’s worked for on the line in one of its first matches of the dual season. No. 3 Pepperdine’s caliber of play this year promises that this trip will be no beach day for the Bears.
“We wanted to get a match before we go to (ITA National Indoors Championships),” said Cal head coach Amanda Augustus. “Our goal is to be ready all the time. We’re familiar with a lot of their players, and it’s supposed to rain (in Berkeley) so we’re happy to get on the road and play some matches.”
Last season, with the Bears in the No. 1 spot in the nation and the Waves at No. 5, Cal made one of its biggest statements in defense of that premier ranking. Playing at home and with its undefeated record on the line, Cal embarrassed Pepperdine in a 7-0 win that saw the Bears drop just two sets over nine matches (seven completed).
But that was in the familiar confines of Hellman Tennis Complex, and this year the Waves will be able to take advantage of their home courts and the noisy Pacific Coast Highway just down the hill.
The most exciting part of these teams facing off is Cal senior and No. 49 singles player Maegan Manasse playing Pepperdine sophomore Luisa Stefani, currently ranked No. 8 in the nation. Last year’s matchup saw both players receiving a little bit more love from the ITA, with Manasse at No. 12 and Stefani at No. 2. But forget the rankings, another year should just mean better tennis between the two. Manasse drew first blood last year, with a 6-3, 6-3 win.
Pepperdine has two doubles teams ranked in the top 10 of the nation, so earning the doubles point could be a challenge for Cal. The newly formed doubles team of Manasse and transfer graduate student Maya Jansen will have to face a level of competition the players have not yet seen as a pair. Their individual credentials, however, are unimpeachable. Jansen won the NCAA doubles championship twice in her time at Alabama, with one of those wins coming over a duo from Cal. Manasse was a long time partner of Denise Starr, and the two had great success over the years, reaching a doubles championships final.
Jansen will be in a strange position as she travels to new locations and plays new schools that she’s never seen before very late in her career. This match starts a run of road matches to locations all over the West Coast she never had to visit in her time at Alabama.
“For me it’s pretty exciting (to see new schools), because by the end of three of four years it becomes such a routine,” Jansen said. “I feel like a freshman again, everything is new and exciting, and I appreciate playing against different people.”
The Bears will follow up Pepperdine with a match against San Diego State on Sunday. The Aztecs are unranked and shouldn’t pose much of a threat.
Whether it’s familiar faces like Manasse or new ones like Jansen, someone will need to step up if Cal wants to make a big early season statement.