Cal begins first fall test with little set in stone

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Despite facing a field of 80-plus players, Cal women’s tennis team will most likely be forced to compete against each other in their first tournament of the 2012 fall season.

It’s fitting, therefore, that the Cal Nike Invitational will take place at home in Berkeley.

The tournament begins Friday and will conclude Sunday at the Hellman Tennis Complex and the Channing Tennis Courts.

Attending the tournament this fall are 12 schools, none of which were ranked in the top 25 in the country last season. Arizona State, Minnesota, and Saint Mary’s are all formidable opponents, however, as they finished the 2012 spring season ranked in the top 50.

Last season, the Bears dominated the Cal Nike Invitational, as four Cal players reached the semifinals. Senior Taylor Davis beat sophomore Zsofi Susanyi to reach the finals, while former Cal star Jana Juricova defeated junior Annett Schutting in the other semifinal match. Juricova got the victory over Davis to win the tournament.

No.5 Susanyi and No. 22 Schutting are the highest ranked players competing this year. The other 12 schools don’t feature any players ranked in the top 25, as the only player ranked in the top 50 from the 12 schools attending is Katie Le of Santa Clara.

The official seeding for the tournament won’t be released until immediately prior to the tournament because last-minute withdrawals are expected. However, the Bears combination of Annie Goransson and Schutting, recently ranked No. 3 in the country, figures to lead the doubles field.

After the long wait, the Bears are anxious to get back on the court.

“We’ve been training pretty hard,” senior Taylor Davis said. “We’re ready to go.”

While the three-day tournament can provide a good measurement of each player’s game, it is also a test of fitness due to the significant number of matches each player can expect to play over three days. Coach Augustus, therefore, placed an emphasis on mental training by practicing important game situations in the week leading up to the tournament.

Because this is the Bears’ only home tournament of the fall season, the players are very excited to kick off the new season in front of their home fans.

“It’s a lot of fun to play at home, because of our supporters,” senior Annie Goransson said.  “We have such great experiences here.”

If last year is any indicator, look for the Bears to compete head-to-head against each other, which can create a unique situation for the players.

“We’re such good friends, but we’re also very competitive,” Davis said. “We just have to try to not look over the net.”

However, the goal is to have as many Bears as possible contending for the championship.

“You want it for the team, so it doesn’t really matter who wins, but you have to really want it for yourself,” Goransson said. “It’s always great, like last year when we had four Bears in the semi-finals; that’s great, that’s what we want.

Sean Wagner-McGough covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected]