When Zsofi Susanyi started doubles play against UCLA (8-1) on Friday, she wore a band of athletic tape around her left thigh. By the start of singles play, Susanyi, the current No. 1 singles player, was on the sideline and the athletic tape had been replaced with ice.
For Cal fans at Hellman Tennis Complex, the injury was like a nightmare.
Everyone on the Cal roster got bumped up a court to make up for Susanyi’s absence, facing tougher opponents than usual. Despite sweeping the doubles point against the Bruins, the injury-hampered Bears (4-3) fell, 4-3.
The story started the same against USC (8-2) the next day. Susanyi played her doubles set with freshman Klara Fabikova, but Cal coach Amanda Augustus decided to pull her out before singles once again.
After the Trojans swept the Bears in doubles, it seemed like the ending would be the same as Friday.
But the unexpected happened. Five Bears pulled off victories to give No. 7 Cal a huge 5-2 win over the No. 6 Trojans.
USC’s Sabrina Santamaria, who shares the top spot with Susanyi, also did not play during singles due to a slight injury. Whatever USC’s injury situation, this win was still important for Cal’s confidence.
“This was a really crucial victory for us just emotionally and mentally for the team,” Augustus said. “It will keep us working hard to get better and better each week.”
The first point for the Bears came when freshman Lynn Chi, who played well against UCLA, had another impressive performance and knocked off USC’s Giuliana Olmos, 6-4, 6-0, in her first weekend on the second court.
“I was definitely really nervous at the beginning,” said Chi. “But I think after yesterday’s match, I got a little more confidence because I felt like I really could play on court two.”
Tayler Davis pulled off a comeback victory on the fourth court, as did Alice Duranteau on the sixth. When Klara Fabikova wrapped up her match on court three in the third set, it gave Cal their fourth point and the assured victory.
Now the only people still playing tennis were Cal’s No. 12 Anett Schutting and USC’s No. 3 Danielle Lao.
With the Bears already assured a win, it would have been easy for Schutting to let up, but this match was important to her as she had struggled just the day before against UCLA, losing to No. 6 Robin Anderson 6-1, 6-0.
In a back-and-forth match, Schutting finally prevailed against Lao in three sets, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3. Schutting attributes the change in her play from Friday to Saturday to her mental focus.
“I think I wanted to win today more than I did yesterday,” Schutting said. “I felt great today, physically, mentally, everything, and I was ready to compete.”
In a weekend where Cal’s top player was limited due to injury, several other players showed that the Bears have the talent and depth to compete with tennis’ top teams.
“The more adverse conditions the better,” said Augustus. “It trains you mentally. And I think when you get to the end of the season, it’s the mentally tougher team that wins.”
Riley McAtee covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected]