Juricova returns as Cal dominates in Northwest

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In her first singles match back from injury, Jana Juricova’s timing was off. Julia Metzger of Oregon had grabbed a 3-0 lead, spoiling a potentially triumphant return for the All-American.

But reality can only be overruled for so long. Juricova found her rhythm and did not lose a single game the rest of the match, crushing Metzger, 6-3, 6-0, to clinch the victory for Cal. The All-American’s early struggles turned out to be just a blip in a dominant road trip for the Bears: the team grabbed a 6-1 victory from Washington in Seattle on Friday, followed by a 7-0 sweep of the Ducks (8-3, 0-2 in the Pac-12) in Eugene, Ore., on Saturday.

Juricova’s return was just part of the success, but it certainly was the aspect that Cal coaches were watching with the most scrutiny. The defending NCAA singles champion had raced off to a 19-3 start this season, but she went down with an lower back strain in early February and had missed six matches before taking the court for doubles against Washington.

“It was really fun to play with the team again,” Juricova said.

Juricova’s two wins on the No. 1 doubles court with partner Zsofi Susanyi highlighted a strong Cal doubles effort. The team has captured the doubles point in its last five matches, all wins.

No. 17 Susanyi, Cal’s other ranked racket-wielder, produced the biggest win of the weekend, beating No. 11 Denise Dy of Washington 6-3, 7-5, giving the Bears (11-4, 4-0) the victory. Dy had beaten Susanyi in straight sets when they met in January in Berkeley, underscoring the magnitude of Susanyi’s progress.

“(Zsofi) changed her tactics a little a bit and played point to point and didn’t worry as much,” said coach Amanda Augustus. “She not only stayed in points, but she took advantage of opportunities.”

The victory was the work of intense strategic planning by Augustus and Susanyi. Knowing that Dy takes advantage of the short angles, the two developed a strategy that would reset points in the middle of the court, allowing Susanyi to take advantage of her impressive repertoire of baseline strokes. Susanyi also showcased strategically placed slices, disrupting Dy’s timing and allowing Susanyi to attack or come to the net.

Washington (6-5, 0-2) provided the most competition over the weekend, although the match was never in doubt. The Huskies’ Riko Shimizu won her team’s only singles point with a straight-set win on court six and added a doubles victory (albeit meaningless) to hand Cal its only losses.

Cal junior Tayler Davis was held out of the weekend’s matches, though her coaches categorize her sprained foot as a day-to-day injury. The Bears have now played 15 straight duals matches without a full lineup.

Yet Juricova took the short-handed victories as a sign of Cal’s depth.

“It’s nice to see that we can come destroy opponents, and it’s really great for the future,” Juricova said.