Payback is possibly in the cards for the No. 3 Cal women’s tennis team as it heads to Los Angeles to go toe to toe with USC on Saturday. The Bears will meet the Trojans in this Pac-12 match a day after they face UCLA.
Cal previously faced USC at Hellman Tennis Complex in a match where the Bears were unable to defeat the Trojans and Cal lost by a score of 3-4. The Bears were plagued by unforced errors in the singles matches that eventually cost them the overall match.
“The USC match was about a month ago,” said head coach Amanda Augustus. “We have improved a lot since then and are playing better tennis.”
The Bears (11-2, 2-0 Pac-12) are on a six-game win streak that includes victories over defending NCAA champions UCLA and arch rivals Stanford. The Trojans (12-2, 1-0 Pac-12) won their last two matches at Washington State and against SDSU but lost to UCLA before that.
A key thing for the Bears will be to obtain the doubles point, which will give Cal the early lead and help it through the rest of the matches. The Bears have only lost two doubles matches in their last 15 matches.
No. 4 sophomore Maegan Manasse, who has been performing consistently and well, will lead Cal on court No. 1. Her forehand stroke and precise volleying have been very crucial in taking home wins in both singles and doubles.
Manasse’s doubles partner, No. 81 sophomore Denise Starr, has been playing well, too, and she clinched the overall victory for the Bears in the matches against Utah and Colorado. She has added a valuable backhand slice to her exceptional groundstrokes that has helped her gain the upper hand over her opponents.
No. 60 freshman Karla Popovic has become a crucial player for the Bears. Her victory at Pepperdine awarded Cal the overall victory, and Popovic was named Pac-12 Player of the Week — the third week in a row that a player from Cal’s roster has been given the award. No. 27 junior Klara Fabikova and Starr were the previous winners.
Zsofi Susanyi, the No. 29 player, has been playing some outstanding tennis and will look to continue her strong run. The senior has won her last five singles matches and will look to win against USC. Her shot consistency, as well as movement on the court, has been difficult for her opponents to decipher, which has helped Susanyi emerge victorious in her last five matches.
Fabikova has been very consistent in both singles and doubles and will be important for gaining a victory. Senior Cecilia Estlander’s experience will also be very helpful in such an important Pac-12 matchup.
Cal’s previous match against USC was a close affair. The Bears were able to capture the early doubles point, but a plethora of unforced errors in the singles matches ultimately led to their defeat.
“I think there were a couple of times we couldn’t respond well to their mid-game adjustments the last time,” Susanyi said. “Recognizing those adjustments will be key this time.”
Cal is confident of its chances, as it has put on a strong run recently.
“Last time, we weren’t quite as prepared in our third sets,” Augustus said. “This time, we will be much more prepared mentally as well as physically. We have played quite a few three-set matches since then. Everyone’s pretty used to it now.”