The No. 4 Cal women’s tennis team plays its last two regular season matches this week at the Hellman Tennis Complex against Sacramento State on Friday and No. 11 Stanford on Saturday.
Cal (18-3, 8-1 in Pac-12) has had a very strong season that has featured wins over top-ranked opponents such as No. 5 UCLA, the current reigning NCAA champions, and No. 18 Pepperdine. The Bears final regular season matches will also be the last regular season home games for seniors Zsofi Susanyi and Cecilia Estlander.
The Bears are fairly confident of their chances in the nonconference matchup against Sacramento State. With six players ranked in the top-100, Cal is the favorite going into this matchup against the 16-9 Hornets.
“Sacramento State will be a good preparation for the next day’s match,” said head coach Amanda Augustus. “It’s always good to have match play before an important match.”
The Bears are on a six-match win streak and gave a very convincing performance in their last outing where they blanked Washington State 7-0 and USF 4-0. No. 24 junior Klara Fabikova will be a key player in both the singles and doubles. Her powerful strokes paved the way for a dominant win over Stanford’s Taylor Davidson, then-No. 13, the last time the two teams met March 1. Fabikova’s doubles partner, No. 40 Susanyi too had a phenomenal performance against Stanford where she won both the doubles and singles matches.
The last Big Slam was a tense affair where the last three matches went into a third set. In the end, Estlander clinched the overall victory for the Bears by defeating her opponent in a tough and grueling match. Fans can expect a similar thrilling contest this time around, too.
The doubles point, which proved to make the difference against Stanford the last time, will be crucial again this time in both matchups. Cal has thrived in matches where it has been able to win the doubles point, which paves the way for a good performance in singles.
“The doubles point is very important, it gives us momentum,” Susanyi said. “Keeping our focus on the game and closing sets out and taking care of business will be very important, too.”
Cal will also look to some clutch performances from No. 48 sophomore Denise Starr, who has emerged as a big-game player. Her groundstrokes and first serve percentage have been crucial to her solid performances this season, as she’s undefeated in Pac-12 singles matches. No. 56 junior Lynn Chi, since her return from a foot injury, has been very valuable for Cal — her devastating flat strokes have been very useful.
Cal’s depth is visible in its plethora of ranked players. No. 3 sophomore Maegan Manasse has been a vital cog for the team’s success this season. Plying her trade on court No. 1, she has amassed a 36-7 record in singles. Her volleying style has terrorized her opponents throughout the season. No. 89 freshman Karla Popovic has become a very important player for the Bears in her first year. She has a 38-8 record in singles, and her strong forehand will be a crucial weapon for Cal in these matches. Add to that the experience of Susanyi and Estlander, and the Bears look like a very good team before the NCAA’s start.
“The whole team is pretty familiar and experienced,” Augustus said. “They’re ready and they’re excited. Hopefully we have a good crowd here. I think all of them are very crucial to winning the match.”
Devang Prasad covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].