After strong start to Pac-12 play, No. 9 Cal women’s tennis team ready for nonconference opponent SDSU

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The No. 9 Cal women’s tennis team heads to Southern California to take on No. 65 San Diego State Univeristy in a nonconference matchup after starting Pac-12 play last week with a 2-0 record.

The Bears (9-2) have been playing good tennis and have had dominant victories over Pac-12 opponents Utah and Colorado last week. SDSU has had a lukewarm season so far with a record of 6-5.

Cal players will look to play some impressive tennis and post a win. The team’s morale is high after some hard-fought victories over their past opponents, including a dramatic win over Stanford and over defending NCAA champions UCLA. This match against the Aztecs is the first of six away matchups the Bears are scheduled to play in the next three weeks.

“I think we’ve played a lot of matches, we’ve had good days and bad days both,” said junior Klara Fabikova. “We have a lot of experience. All of this has been good preparation for us.”

No. 4 Maegan Manasse, a sophomore, will lead the line for the Bears. She had convincing victories against Utah and Colorado the past week when she used her forehand to create a lot of points and her movement at the net was particularly effective. She has also shown flexibility in changing her game plan, especially in the match against Colorado where she was down one set but improved her baseline strokes and came back to win the match. Her doubles partnership with sophomore Denise Starr has also yielded positive results for the team, and their form will be crucial to Cal’s long away run.

No. 81 Starr’s wins in singles in the last two games clinched the overall victory for the Bears, and her stellar form over the season has contributed to her being named the Pac-12 Player of the Week. This is Cal’s second consecutive Pac-12 Player of the Week award after Fabikova was given the award last week. Starr’s ability to dictate the pace of the game with her groundstrokes and an effective backhand slice hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“She’s been putting in a lot of hard work,” said head coach Amanda Augustus. “It’s always good to see that hard work being recognized. It’s a nice honor to have, and I’m happy that the Pac-12 also recognized how well she’s been playing.”

Senior Zsofi Susanyi, the No. 29 player in the country, has been playing some fabulous tennis recently and has posted three consecutive wins in both singles as well as doubles with her partner, Fabikova. Susanyi’s movement on the court has been impeccable as well as her sublime strokes that have outfoxed her opponents several times in recent weeks.

Fabikova has been in good form, too. Her forehand has wreaked havoc on her opponents in singles and her down-the-line backhand has been crucial to victories in doubles. A few aspects of her game could be better, however, especially her serve as she is prone to committing a few errors.

“I definitely have to work on my serve,” Fabikova said. “I would like to have my first serve as a strength as opposed to it just putting the ball in the court. It’s a big part of my game, and I’m working hard on it.”

Freshman Karla Popovic, the No. 60 singles player in the country, has also been a crucial player for Cal and has performed well in both singles and doubles. Sophomore Stephane Lin, too, has showed great tenacity and energy to grind out wins in the last two matchups.

The Bears will look to capture the doubles point, as it has been crucial in posting an overall win throughout the season. They have been performing well in doubles and have been working hard especially on returns.

“We want to see them implemented in practice,” Augustus said of the practice on returns. “We do the repetitions in practice so that the players feel confident in implementing them in the matches.”

A positive start will be important for Cal in what is a long run of away matchups. It will also be a confidence booster for the team before they play the Los Angeles schools. Cal previously lost to USC but was successful in defeating UCLA. An early win over SDSU will be good for the team’s quest to obtain positive results against both the Trojans and the Bruins.

“Everybody’s excited to travel and play these games,” said junior Lynn Chi. “It’s going to be a good match, and we would like to post a win.”

Devang Prasad covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].