The stakes are high for the Cal women’s tennis squad entering the final stretch of the season.
If the Bears can close out the season without a loss, all they need is for USC to lose one match to claim a share of what would be their first-ever Pac-12 title.
So when the Cal women’s tennis team begins the final stretch of their season as they host Oregon at 1:30 p.m. on Friday at Hellman Tennis Complex, they will be looking ahead. Only four matches are left, and the Pac-12 title is within reach for the Bears.
No. 11 Cal (11-5, 5-1) will be a huge favorite against an Oregon squad (11-6, 1-5) that has struggled since the start of Pac-12 play. The Ducks have only one ranked player and have lost to several opponents that the Bears have crushed. Cal’s goal in this match will be to prepare itself for the next two weeks — a road trip to Arizona and a final home match against Stanford.
“We’re just starting our next segment of the season of this month of kind of building through this week, given we only have this one match,” said Cal coach Amanda Augustus.
Though a victory against Oregon is nearly assured, the team is treating the match seriously to prepare them for the next two weeks against tougher opponents who will likely prove a challenge.
“Usually, their top couple of girls are pretty good — they’re just maybe not as deep as other teams,” said Augustus. “I think they like quick points. They’re fairly aggressive in doubles.”
With a short week — only one match instead of the usual two — and an easy matchup, the team has long-term goals in mind. After the Pac-12 title is handed out at the end of the season, the Pac-12 Championships tournament will take place the next week in Ojai. Two weeks after that will be the NCAAs in Illinois.
Augustus calls this the final segment of the team’s schedule.
“We periodize our schedule,” she said. “This is our last work-hard, improve-each-week segment, and then we have Pac-12s. Our final cycle is NCAAs that go through the end of May.”
The purpose of these periodizations is to have the team ready to peak at the right times.
“We have so many matches all year long, and you obviously can’t play your best every single week,” said Augustus. “So we set up different phases, and for us in our last segment, it was to peak and be ready for the UCLA and USC matches.”
In this final segment of the regular season, the goal is to peak for the Stanford match and the subsequent Pac-12s. Stanford also has only one loss in the conference and is in the same position as Cal — it just needs USC to lose once to be in the hunt for the title.
The Cardinal has won or shared the Pac-12 title for 14 of the last 15 years. It’s very likely that the match that decides this year’s title will be the season finale against Cal.
The road to that finale — and the title — begins at home against the Ducks.
Riley McAtee covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected]