Chang, Visico lead charge into Saint Mary’s Invitational

The Cal women’s tennis team will look to prove its depth this weekend, as seniors Stephany Chang and Catalina Visico lead the charge over the Berkeley Hills to Moraga, Calif., for the Saint Mary’s Invitational.

The five Cal players who did not travel to the All-American Championships last weekend will look to gain momentum for the season in a tournament that has kickstarted the seasons of some of the West Coast’s best players.

In 2009, freshman Mallory Burdette of Stanford, seeded sixth, won the tournament in her first national event. Burdette ended up with 36-5 record that season, which culminated with a championship for the Cardinal.

The previous year, the Saint Mary’s tournament was a coming out party for freshman Jana Juricova of Cal, as she began as the No. 6 seed and won both the singles and the doubles bracket for her first tournament wins at the NCAA level.

Chang and Visico will be looking for that breakout performance in their fourth trip to the event in their final fall tournament season. Yet the two will have to push any sentimentalism aside as they are in the midst of wide-open battle for the No. 5 and No. 6 singles slots for the duals season.

“I had my emotional moment (in the Cal Nike Invitational),” Visico said. “I played a match and after was like, ‘oh my gosh. This will be the last time I’m playing this tournament.’”

Freshmen Cecilia Estlander and Sofie Susanyi are also edging for prime positions and are adjusting to life off the court with the help of Chang and Visico.

“I feel like we can teach and help out the freshmen,” Chang said.

For Chang, this season is the last of a roller-coaster career; the San Jose, Calif., native went an astounding 30-12 her freshmen year, but has struggled mightily since then. However, Chang excelled in the first tournament this year, not dropping a set in the singles field to take the second-flight title.

Chang will be in the top flight at the Saint Mary’s tournament, along with three other Cal players, while Visico will play in the third flight. Two-time defending doubles champion Catherine Isip of Saint Mary’s is the top overall seed in singles, although this by no means dictate success: The event’s favorite has not won the competition since 2006.

Last year, Annie Goransson of Cal dominated the field; the championship was a highlight of Goransson’s strong tournament season, in which she posted an 18-5 record.

The past results beg the question of this year’s breakout star in Moraga. Could it be Ellen Tsay of Stanford, the No. 3 recruit in the nation playing in her first tournament? Or could it be Cal’s Susanyi, who showcased a top-notch forehand in her first collegiate appearance?

Or perhaps the storyline of newcomers stealing the show will change, and Chang will continue her back-from-the-brink season with another trophy.