Although the idea of Mychal Kendricks sacking Zach Maynard or the thought of Tarah Murrey landing a spike past Robin Rostratter both seem repellant to Cal fans, a similar oddity may be in store for the Cal women’s tennis team at this weekend’s Cal Nike Invitational.
Four of the top five seeded players in the main draw are Bears, including top-ranked virtuoso Jana Juricova and 2010 tournament runner-up Annie Goransson.
The tournament, which takes place from Friday to Sunday on Hellman and Channing courts, features 71 players from 12 other teams, including conference rivals Arizona State and USC. To Cal coach Amanda Augustus, the first event of the season, which begins at 8 a.m., will be the first obstacle of many that the team will face.
“We view the season as checkpoints along the way,” Augustus said. “When we are tested early with back-to-back events or a lot of tennis, that will gauge where our fitness is at and mentally where we are at.”
The team hopes that the final checkpoint will be in May’s NCAA championship in Athens, Georgia. Juricova, the top seed and defending champion in the main doubles’ event, will be a stalwart in that push to the top. This weekend, she will be playing with new partner Anett Schutting for the first time.
There is a distinct possibility that will be multiple Bear-on-Bear matches, including perhaps an all-Cal final. In last year’s Saint Mary’s Invitational, Goransson beat Tayler Davis in a championship singles’ match, and the two were runners-up in the doubles tournament on the same day. Davis believes that the team will do a good job balancing competition and camaraderie in this year’s tournament.
“All of the team we are really competitive so it would be the same as playing any one else,” Davis said. “Of course we are friendly afterwards. We can flip the switch from competitive mode to laughing after the match is over.”
Davis (the No. 2 singles seed this weekend) and Goransson (seeded No. 3) may be lynchpins to Cal’s success this season. Last year, Davis won the lower-tier flight of the Invitational as the second seed, while Goransson started unseeded in the main bracket, but pulled multiple upsets before falling to Kelcy McKenna of Arizona State in the final.
The two also start the year as doubles partners; the two went 18-11 last year, and enter the season as the Cal tandem with the most experience.
“They have a certain familiarity — they came in as freshmen together so I think for them whenever they get the opportunity to play together it’s something special,” Augustus said. “They communicate well with each other. Annie’s more high energy while Tayler is a bit more calm and collected so the combination of their two energies mesh well together.”
Sophomore Alice Duranteau will play with freshman Sofie Susanyi in the top flight; it is the first Invitational for both players. Dureanteau is the top seed in the second flight, while Susanyi and fellow freshman Cecilia Estlander will be in the top singles’ draw along with the four other seeded Cal players.