No. 16 Cal women’s tennis takes on Washington, Washington State

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When a team is on a six-game winning streak and has an undefeated record at home, it can sometimes be easy to overlook easier opponents. This is something that Cal women’s tennis cannot afford to do in its two weekend matches against Washington and Washington State as the team looks to set up a winner-takes-all game with Stanford for the Pac-12 championship.

On top of that, the regular season is coming to a close, and that can only mean one thing: senior day. That is exactly the case for No. 16 Cal as it takes on Washington and Washington State on Friday and Saturday. On Saturday, the Bears will honor seniors Maegan Manasse, Denise Starr, Stephane Lin and graduate transfer Maya Jansen. It won’t be the best opportunity for the soon-to-be graduates to showcase their skills, but nonetheless, the match Saturday will be provide these Bears one more chance to be celebrated.

After a hard-fought comeback on the road against Oregon led by No. 104 sophomore Olivia Hauger, the team returns to the Hellman Tennis Center for its three remaining regular-season games. After having to play three of their past four matches indoors, the Bears will certainly feel much more comfortable at home on their usual outdoor courts. Although this variability is something that has been a hurdle to deal with for the Bears, the experience of playing on both surfaces will bode well for them when the NCAA tournament begins in Athens, Georgia. While the team’s recent record is very strong, Cal still has a lot of work to do if it wants to compete with the best teams in the country, and getting experience on both surfaces will be beneficial.

Another facet that Cal must improve upon is its serving. When the Bears play well, they rely on a high first-serve percentage and are able to grab early advantages in service games. This is something that Cal head coach Amanda Augustus has been stressing throughout the season. With a solid week of practice, Cal will look to keep this figure high.

Additionally, if not more importantly, the Bears must look to stay more consistently aggressive. Frequently throughout the season, the team became passive and let its opponents dictate play. Instead, the Bears must remain aggressive and look to poach whenever possible. In order to capture the doubles point, the team must stay aggressive.

If the team is able to improve upon these two facets of its game, there is no reason Cal can’t win the Pac-12 regular-season championship. But before they look ahead, the Bears must showcase their ability to defeat both Washington and Washington State, even if they are the favorites. Cal men’s basketball’s performance in the NIT can tell you the importance of not overlooking any opponent.

Overall, this is a very important weekend for the Bears. Cal must not only beat these two teams, it must also improve in serving and playing aggressively to show that it can compete with Stanford. With the team completely healthy for one of the few times this year, the Bears will look to get over one more hurdle. And the seniors will have an excellent chance to ride into the sunset one more time.

Praveen Kuruppu covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].

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