In a potential clash of Titans, the No. 3 Cal women’s tennis team heads to Los Angeles to take on conference rivals and defending NCAA champions, No. 5 UCLA. With both the teams playing some good tennis this season and the match being a Pac-12 conference game, it has the makings of being an instant classic.
Cal (11-2, 2-0 Pac-12) was able to defeat the Bruins (11-2, 1-0) the last time the two teams met at Hellman Tennis Complex by a score of 4-3. The Bears gave away the doubles point but were able to rally back in the singles and defeat the Bruins. Now-No. 4 Maegan Manasse, a sophomore, had a nail-biting game in which she overcame a one-set deficit to defeat Chanelle Van Nguyen.
The Bears are on a roll with a six game win streak that includes wins against No. 10 Stanford and No. 16 Pepperdine.
Cal will look to start positively and try to get the early doubles point. Even though the Bears weren’t able to take home that crucial first point, Cal was unable to adjust to UCLA’s mid game adjustments to take home the needed singles points for the win.
“The previous matches were a month ago,” said head coach Amanda Augustus. “We’ve definitely made some improvements over all this time and are excited to play against them.”
Currently the Bears’ doubles performance looks very solid, as they have not lost a doubles point since losing one to the Bruins. If Cal can continue this run in the matchup against UCLA, it could potentially be a deciding factor.
In the singles, too, the Bears have been giving strong performances. Manasse will play on court No. 1 where she has been very consistent. She won her match at SDSU this past week but lost a close match against Pepperdine. Her penchant to volley has been important in her winning matches.
No. 29 Zsofi Susanyi, a senior, who lost her singles match against UCLA’s Catherine Harrison, has been on a resurgence ever since. After the loss to UCLA, Susanyi has notched up five straight wins in singles with all of them being convincing straight set wins. Her consistent and artistic strokes have found little opposition in the last few matches.
“It feels great to win, especially after both the wins against Pepperdine and USC,” Susanyi said.
Junior Klara Fabikova, the No. 27 player in the country, has been playing some good tennis, too. Her powerful strokes have propelled to a six match win streak in singles. Her doubles pairing with Susanyi has also been very effective, as the pair have only lost once in their last six outings.
For the third straight week, Cal has had a player named as the Pac-12 Player of the Week with No. 60 Karla Popovic being given that honor most recently. The freshman was victorious against SDSU and clinched the overall victory for Cal against the Waves. With a very strong forehand and extensive court coverage, Popovic has become a crucial player for the Bears in her first year.
Add to this the good form of No. 81 sophomore Denise Starr and the experience of senior Cecilia Estlander — who clinched the overall win at Stanford — Cal looks ready to battle UCLA.
“We’re always excited for these matches,” Augustus said. “They are our traditional rivals, along with Stanford. Our team plays well (on the) road, and we’re looking forward to some great matches and good tennis.”
Devang Prasad covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].