Over the last month, the Cal women’s tennis team has been dealing with injuries to nearly half its players and has tumbled in the rankings from No. 7 to No. 18. And with its star player — sophomore Zsofi Susanyi — still out, the squad could use a break.
But it shouldn’t expect to get one when it hosts Washington State and Washington this weekend.
While Cal (5-4) has historically had great success against both of these teams — with a combined all-time record of 42-4 against the two programs — both northern schools are having fantastic seasons.
Washington State (10-2) is riding a seven-game win streak that has propelled it to its best start since 1986. The Bears will play Washington State at 1:30 p.m. on Friday at Hellman Tennis Complex.
The next day, Cal will play Washington, which is sitting at an impressive 8-3, at noon.
While neither of these squads has wins against top-ranked teams, they are simply too hot right now to assume they will be easy victories as they have been in years past.
These games will finally open up Pac-12 play for the Bears, marking the beginning of their quest for a conference title. While the Bears have had trouble early this season, the start of conference games can be thought of as a kind of reset for them.
“It’s exciting to get into conference matches,” said Cal coach Amanda Augustus. “You look at your record, and it just says 0-0 until you start the conference matches.”
After Cal’s disappointing loss last weekend to Stanford, the start of Pac-12 play may be what the Bears need to rebound.
“I think after we lost to Stanford, everyone is going to be more pumped up to play and practice,” said freshman Klara Fabikova, who has stood out for Cal on the third court this season with a 5-2 singles record. “We’ll have better energy this week.”
While the Bears are looking to return to form, Washington State and Washington will be looking to finally prove themselves against a top team.
The Cougars have not played a team in the top 25 all season. Meanwhile, the Huskies have losses to UCLA and Alabama, both of which are top-10 teams. Beating the Bears could propel either of them into the top 25.
But Washington and Washington State will have their work cut out for them. Home-court advantage for Cal should have a bigger impact than usual. The Bears are an outdoor team, but both WSU and Washington play indoors.
Augustus thinks this makes both teams pretty comparable in play styles, allowing the Cal team to prepare for both of them at once.
“They play indoors a lot, so they play pretty aggressively and fast,” Augustus said. “I think we’ll be ready for that coming off the Stanford team that plays pretty aggressively and fast. We like playing them outside better than when we go up there and play them inside.”
Despite these advantages and Cal’s historical success, the team is not getting ahead of themselves.
“You can’t take any opponent lightly,” Augustus said. “I think you have to come out ready to play and compete each week.”
Riley McAtee covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected]