After weeks of fevered jockeying for the conference title, the Cal women’s tennis team will retreat to Ojai, Calif. – tucked in a valley 55 miles northwest of Los Angeles – for the Pac-12 Championships in singles and doubles.
Ranked eighth in the nation, the Bears (17-6, 8-2 in the Pac-12) finished their conference season with losses to No. 4 USC and No. 5 Stanford, the eventual conference co-champions. As a prelude to the individual tournaments, Stanford topped Washington State 7-0 in a make-up match Wednesday, giving the Cardinal their ninth conference win and the Pac-12’s automatic bid to the NCAA team championships. (Stanford’s win over USC on April 13 guaranteed the Cardinal the tiebreaker.)
The latest ITA national rankings released Tuesday evince the prestige of the Pac-12. Along with four teams in the top 10 (including No. 1 UCLA) the conference boasts nine singles competitors and seven doubles teams in their respective top 25, giving the Pac-12 a strong case for the best conference nationwide.
Sophomore Nicole Gibbs of Stanford, the top ranked Pac-12 singles player at No. 3, enters the tournament as the top seed. Cal senior Jana Juricova is seeded fourth and is looking for her first Pac-12 singles title; she will likely have to face teammate Zsofi Susanyi, the fifth seed, en route to the title. Kristie Ahn of Stanford, the defending Pac-12 champion, has missed most of this year due to injury and will not be in the field to defend her championship.
The Pac-12 will also have a new doubles champion, as Mari Andersson, who won the tournament with Juricova, graduated after the spring season. Juricova and Susanyi will team up, yet Cal’s best hope may lie with Annie Goransson and Anett Schutting, ranked No. 5 in the country and the second seed at the tournament.
Doubles have traditionally been an arena of success for the Bears in the Pac-12 tournament. Cal has won six of the doubles titles over the last two decades, including a 1997 win featuring current coach Amanda Augustus. In comparison, Cal has won only two singles championships in the tournament.
Along with Juricova and Susanyi, junior Tayler Davis and sophomore Anett Schutting have earned a spot in the singles bracket. Sophomore Alice Duranteau will attempt to defend her title in the singles invitational, with will feature four Cal players. The Bears will also bring five doubles teams to Ventura County.
Both the men’s and women’s Pac-12 tournaments are part of the larger Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament, now in its 112th rendition. The Ojai Tennis Tournament is an all-volunteer effort that stages 30 separate tournaments over a six-day stretch, bringing together racket-wielders of all stripes; amateurs, California high schools, community colleges, Division III schools, and the Pac-12 will hold their tournaments until April 29.
Due to the prevalence of highly-ranked racket-wielders, the Pac-12 championships will serve as a dress rehearsal for the NCAA championships, which begin on May 11. The conference has been shut out from the national titles – team, singles, and doubles – just once since 1997.