Cal looks to solidify doubles game against top competition

The Cal women’s tennis team hopes to fire off a fierce opening salvo this weekend at the Northwest Regional Championship. The Bears will make their first trip of the season to Stanford, Calif., for five days of tennis beginning Friday, starting at 9 a.m. at the Taube Tennis Center.

Hoping to find consistency in the doubles game, Cal coach Amanda Augustus has started from scratch in crafting four new partnerships.

“It’s a bit of art and a bit of science,” she said.

No. 1 ranked Jana Juricova remains without a partner. Juricova had played with Mari Andersson for three seasons, an anomaly in the fluid world of collegiate tennis. The two posted a 98-20 mark and won the 2009 NCAA doubles championship.

Earlier this fall, sophomore Anett Schutting was deemed Andersson’s replacement. Largely on behalf of Juricova’s singles record, the duo vaulted to No. 13 in the preseason rankings. After slogging to a championship in a tune-up tournament, Juricova and Schutting dropped both matches they played in a more competitive national tournament.

“I think if you look on paper, Jana and Anett would be a good combination,” Augustus said, although she noted that they may play together again in the future.

In this tournament, Juricova will play with Sofie Susanyi for the first time. The freshman has shown an eruptive forehand, albeit in limited match experience.

Juniors Tayler Davis and Annie Goransson will also be broken up. The two have a strong personal bond but have not translated it to consistency on the court. Goransson and Schutting, together linchpins of the Bears’ success down the stretch last season, will be reunited this weekend.

“Sometimes matchups do jump out at you and they don’t work,” Augustus said. “You have to look at game styles, personalities a little bit, which side they return better from, how comfortable they are at the net.”

Also notable: the regional tournament will be Cal’s first look at Stanford, perhaps the national favorite. The Cardinal has an astounding four players in the preseason top 20 – double the amount of defending champion Florida. Last year, Stanford players alone knocked out four Cal players from the tournament.

Although Tayler Davis referred to Stanford as their “second home courts,” the Cardinal boasts three of the top five seeds, along with the home court.

Another subplot may be the budding rivalry between Juricova and Denise Dy of Washington. Dy, a San Jose, Calif., native who defected to Seattle, beat Juricova in the final of this tournament in 2009. It was Juricova, though, who had the last laugh: She won both meetings last year.

Augustus believes that the regional tournament will be the largest challenge for this team to date. The outcome of the tournament may dictate Cal’s participation in the National Indoor Championships, which will be another checkpoint in the Bears quest for a national championship.

“There’s a lot on the line this tournament,” Augustus said. “It’s a great opportunity in and of itself, but it’s also the first test for preparing for NCAAs.”