Cal women’s tennis looks to sweep Saint Mary’s Invite for second straight year

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As one fleet returns home, a new squad of Cal women’s tennis players will hit the road this weekend to compete at the Saint Mary’s Invitational in Moraga, Calif.

The annual tournament will begin Friday and conclude Sunday at the Korth Tennis Complex at Saint Mary’s College. In a format similar to Cal’s home-court Nike Invitational, players from around the region will compete in one of three flights of singles and doubles. This weekend’s draw will feature Cecilia Estlander, Kelly Chui, Denise Starr and Maegan Manasse. Zsofi Susanyi, Lynn Chi, Anett Schutting and Klara Fabikova will sit out after playing in last week’s ITA All-American Championships.

“I think it’s a good opportunity, because we’ve had the two tournaments with kind of this split squad, so we get to give a little bit more individual attention to each player,” said head coach Amanda Augustus.

Among the Bears who will compete in Moraga this weekend is Estlander, who captured the Gold Flight doubles title with her partner, Alice Duranteau, and reached the semis of the Gold Flight singles tournament at the Cal Nike Invitational in September. This weekend, Estlander hopes to use her experience at home to propel her to similar success at Saint Mary’s.

“I think the Nike Invitational got me more match tough,” Estlander said, “It helped me get into the match rhythm and know how to deal with having three matches a day, which is very important. This weekend, I’ll know how to recover and deal with the mental toughness.”

If Estlander can achieve her goal of earning tournament titles in both singles and doubles this weekend, it will be the second year in a row that Cal sweeps the Saint Mary’s Invitational. Last season, the Bears brought home four tournaments titles, including the top flight singles and doubles crowns. Among the victors last year were Chi and Fabikova, who both competed in the ITA All-American Championships this past week in Los Angeles.

Without some of these key players, it will be up to a fresh fleet of Bears to continue Cal’s tradition of success in Moraga.

Cal’s splintered squad will mostly face schools from the West Coast, Big West and Pac-12 conferences. There’s a good chance the Bears will recognize some of their key opponents, as several schools featured in this weekend’s tournament also competed in the Cal Nike Invitational last month. Stanford, the reigning Pac-12 Conference champion, will be a notable addition to the field.

“I’d like to see us play a little bit more polished than we did at the Cal Invite, even though we did play well there,” Augustus said.

At this point in the season, it is critical for the Bears to develop their individual strengths while facing steep competition. But Cal’s players also recognize the importance of maintaining a team energy despite their separation. After the ITA-All American Championships last weekend, Susanyi reflected on how the team was able to keep up contact.

“We were talking every day, and even though we were apart, we were able to keep this family and team chemistry up,” she said.

At this weekend’s tournament, the Bears will be separated once again. But after a lukewarm performance last week, as a team, they can only move forward.

Dani Coony covers women’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected].