After a series of nonconference matchups in the last few weeks, the No. 7 Cal women’s tennis team kicks off Pac-12 action with its match against No. 47 Colorado on Friday. The Bears return to Hellman Tennis Complex after they defeated Stanford last week.
The Bears (7-2) have gone down at home once, to USC. The Buffaloes (9-2) have not beaten a top-10 school in their program’s history.
Morale in the Bears’ camp is high after a close and hard fought victory over archrival Stanford on Sunday as well as a win over defending NCAA champions UCLA on Feb. 21.
“I think it was a really good weekend for us, and we got some confidence out of it, “ said senior Zsofi Susanyi. “Even the matches that we lost, we played hard and kept it close.”
The team has been looking very good lately with impressive performances from all the players. The key to a winning performance by the Bears generally has been capturing the early doubles point, which sparks a positive attitude in the players. They are then able to focus on their strokes and shot decision-making in the singles. They have also been able to adjust their strategy, however, as seen in the game against UCLA in which Cal lost the doubles point but came back to win four singles matches.
No. 2 Maegan Manasse, a sophomore, will lead the line for the Bears. In the match against Stanford she fought valiantly against No. 4 Carol Zhao but lost in a third set tiebreak. Sophomore Denise Starr, No. 61, had her four-game winning streak snap after a loss in Palo Alto. She still has been playing good tennis, and her ability to move the ball around the court has been countered very rarely this season.
No. 42 Klara Fabikova, a junior, was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week for her performance against Stanford. Freshman Karla Popovic and junior Lynn Chi also had a strong doubles performance as they registered a win on court No. 3 in the match against the Cardinal.
“With doubles we will continue to be aggressive on the net and work the net plays,” Manasse said.
Head coach Amanda Augustus shuffled the courts a bit against Stanford with Starr exchanging her usual court No. 4 with Susanyi’s court No. 3. It is unclear, however, whether another shuffle will take place on the courts and depends on the prospective lineups of Cal’s opponents.
In singles, the team will look to be more assertive and register more wins. Susanyi had a dominant performance against Stanford’s Krista Hardebeck, and Susanyi won 6-4, 6-4. Her strokes were good and well placed around the court, and she combined them with some effective counter punching. Senior Cecilia Estandler showed remarkable tenacity in her clutch win against Stanford’s Lindsay Kostas. Estlander came from a set down to win the overall match for Cal. Susanyi and Estlander’s experience — along with the other players’ various strengths — will be very valuable for Cal’s match against Colorado.
“Keeping our focus will be important this week,” Susanyi said. “Basically, we have to do everything we need to take care of business.”
The players are looking forward to playing at home and are excited about this matchup.
“Any match is going to be tough,” Manasse said. “We have to look at what they are going to bring and what we can bring. Overall, it’s going to be a fun match and we are very excited.”
Devang Prasad covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].