In a season filled with adversity, the Cal women’s tennis squad appears to have finally found its groove.
Two new starting freshmen and a host of injuries led Cal to start with an uncharacteristically mediocre record of 3-3. However, since then, the squad has won five of its last six. The Bears now have a respectable record of 8-4, including being 2-0 in Pac-12 play.
In their quest for a conference title, the Bears hope to extend that undefeated in-conference streak this weekend when they host Colorado and Utah at the Hellman Tennis Complex in Berkeley. The Bears will face the Buffaloes at 1:30 pm on Friday. On Saturday, Cal will take on Utah (7-5, 1-3) at noon, also at home.
No. 13 Cal will be a heavy favorite in these matches. Colorado (6-8, 1-3) won its first Pac-12 match ever two weeks ago following a winless first season in the conference last year. Utah, meanwhile, ranks well outside of the top 50.
Cal’s slow start was due to the changes the squad had to make early in the season. The Bears are starting two freshmen in both doubles and singles. They’ve dealt with injuries to many key players, including their best player, Zsofi Susanyi, who is still out with a leg injury.
But Cal’s recent play has shown that the team has overcome those changes. Though many opponents during their recent hot stretch have not been top teams — none of them were in the top 25 when Cal played them — the Bears are playing with confidence and chemistry now that they did not have early on.
The doubles team of junior Anett Schutting and freshman Lynn Chi is the perfect example. Since being thrust onto the top court in Susanyi’s absence, the two have delivered a 5-2 record in doubles.
Schutting attributes their recent improvement to their communication and hard work.
“The communication part is very important after a point — what worked, what didn’t work,” the junior from Estonia said. “We’ve just been trying to work on our tactics and what we’re good at and what needs to get better.”
Against Colorado and Utah, the squad will be able to continue working on that chemistry. Even though these should be easier matches, both will provide preparation for tougher schools later down the line.
“We take them more as good practice matches,” Schutting said. She was adamant, however, in maintaining that that does not mean the Bears are taking them lightly.
“For me, it’s not going to be different for who I play, whether it’s Utah or USC,” Schutting said. “Yes, of course there may be more excitement, but I’m going to have the same mental approach.”
Maintaining that mental approach will be key for Cal when it faces tougher teams.
“Every match counts,” said Cal coach Amanda Augustus.
It would be easy to say that this weekend’s matchups count a little less, but they are no less important for the Bears as they work to prepare for the top teams they will be playing soon.
Riley McAtee covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected]