The No. 9 Cal women’s tennis team plays No. 21 Pepperdine on Saturday in a no conference dual match — a match that will be the second in a long three-week-away run for the Bears.
The Bears (9-2) play SDSU a day before they play the Waves. Cal has been on a good run recently and has won four games straight that include wins over defending NCAA champion UCLA and arch rival Stanford. Last week, Cal kicked off Pac-12 play with wins over Utah and Colorado.
This year, Pepperdine (5-3) has lost twice at its home court. The Waves won their last match, an encounter with No. 30 Long Beach State.
The Bears currently have six ranked players in singles — namely, No. 4 sophomore Maegan Manasse, No. 27 junior Klara Fabikova, No. 29 senior Zsofi Susanyi, No. 34 junior Lynn Chi, No. 60 freshman Karla Popovic and No. 81 sophomore Denise Starr. On the other hand, Pepperdine has two ranked players, No. 15 Lorraine Guillermo and No. 90 Apichaya Runglerdkriangkrai.
The Bears had decisive victories over Utah and Colorado this week, and both matchups finished 7-0 in the Bears’ favor. Cal clinched the early doubles point in both matches, and Starr’s victories in the singles clinched the overall victory in both. She was also named the Pac-12 Player of the Week for her performance in both matches.
Manasse will be leading the Bears in the singles on court No. 1. She was victorious in her last two outings and played some outstanding tennis. Her forehand was particularly effective in obtaining the wins.
Fabikova, who was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week last week, too, has been giving strong displays on the court. Her powerful shots have been instrumental in ironing out wins in both singles and doubles. Her pairing with Susanyi has reaped positive results, as they have a variety of strokes in their arsenal, which makes them unpredictable on the court.
Susanyi has been on a fabulous run recently and has amassed three straight singles victories. Her fluid movements on the court, as well as consistency of strokes, have been assets in doubles as well as singles.
Starr’s and Popovic’s groundstrokes have been crucial, as both of them like to dictate the pace of their matches. Starr has added a deep backhand slice that has been very useful, and Popovic, too, has improved her double-handed backhand.
The Bears have been preparing for the game against Pepperdine, working on various aspects — especially their returns in doubles, which were a bit erratic in the matches against Colorado and Utah.
“I am working on being more aggressive going into these matches,” Chi said. “Pepperdine’s doing pretty well, and it’s going to be a very good match. I am focusing on my shots.”
Confidence in the Bears’ roster is high. The team has started the Pac-12 conference on a positive note with a 2-0 record.
“The players have been enjoying the run they are on,” said head coach Amanda Augustus. “These nonconference matches will be a good way to gear up for more matches.”
Mental strength will be a critical factor in this run of away games. A win against Pepperdine will be good for the players’ confidence before they face conference rivals such as USC and Washington in the following two weeks.
“We’ve been talking a lot about this long away spell and have been preparing the freshmen for it as well,” Chi said. “Everybody is mentally and emotionally ready, and I think we’ll have a good run of games.”
Devang Prasad covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].