No. 14 Cal women’s tennis outlasts UCSB, preps for Pac-12 competition

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Nicholas Chun/Staff

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Feb. 1: 5-2. Feb. 3: 5-2.

Feb. 18? Once more, 5-2.

The No. 14 Cal women’s tennis team has figured something out over the past few weeks — windy conditions or not.

It’s commonplace in certain sports for weather conditions to be an influential factor in matchups played outdoors — especially when it comes to rain, snow or wind. For most, football, golf and baseball are likely the first sports that come to mind.

But the Bears and visiting UCSB learned this weekend that even tennis is vulnerable to Mother Nature’s invisible hand and innate unpredictability.

A windy weekend in the Bay Area evolved into a legitimate obstacle during Sunday’s match between the Gauchos and Bears, but even the abnormal wind gusts couldn’t slow down a streaking Cal team (4-1) that has found an effective formula early this spring.

Overcoming a prolonged two-week rest period in addition to the wind, the Bears cruised to a 5-2 win against the struggling Gauchos (3-6) — their third such win in a row — welcoming yet another new face to the team in the process.

As part of the victory, freshman Hana Mraz made her first appearance in a Cal uniform, pairing with junior Maria Smith for a 6-4 doubles victory against UCSB senior Amanda Atanasson and freshman Lise Sentenac. The win especially stood out after freshmen Anna Bright and Julia Rosenqvist fell to the Gauchos’ top duo of seniors Palina Dubavets and Natalie Da Silveira, 6-3.

Mraz, a Slovenian with some international experience, joins a robust core of Rosenqvist, Vivian Glozman, and Jasie Dunk as the Bears’ freshman class, a vital component of Cal’s formula for winning so far in the early going.

She is the second spring addition to head coach Amanda Augustus’ already very young lineup, joining Rosenqvist as extra insurance for the Bears with senior Karla Popovic remaining away from the team for an indefinite period.

The No. 28-ranked singles player in the nation, Bright rebounded from the singles loss by taking care of Dubavets on Hellman Tennis Complex’s court one, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, while junior Olivia Hauger made quick work of Da Silveira, 6-2, 6-2.

It was Dunk who capped off Sunday with the match-clinching singles win, rallying past junior Stephanie Yamada, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, her second match-clincher in Cal’s past three contests.

Things continue to change seemingly by the week for the Bears — new faces, new weather — but changes have yet to disrupt their solid opening month of the spring season. Now, their schedule takes its biggest leap of the early season by pairing Cal with its Pac-12 counterparts, beginning with USC and No. 10 UCLA down in Southern California this weekend.

The Bruins in particular come in with favorable odds to stop the Bears in their tracks, countering with a strong freshman class of their own. Freshman Abi Altick leads the way with a 15-4 career singles record, one of six UCLA players in the top 100 singles rankings.

That alone spells bad news for the Bears, who counter with just two such active players — Bright and Hauger.

While it will take more than wind, the absence of its senior star and the addition of new faces to slow down this Cal team, the Trojans and the Bruins are just the start of opponents on a different level from what the Bears have primarily seen so far.

Josh Yuen is an assistant sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].