More than 20 schools will travel to Palo Alto, California, for the ITA Northwest Regional Championships this weekend. But if it plays out like last year’s event, the latter-round matches will look an awful lot like Cal and Stanford are the only schools competing. Seven of the final eight players and all of the final four in the singles draw were from one of the two rival schools in 2014. Similarly, the doubles draw culminated in all of the last four teams representing either the Bears or the Cardinal.
Cal will be at a slight disadvantage for repeating the feat this year, as Maegan Manasse, coming off an appearance in the singles semifinals at the Riviera All-American Championship, will be sitting out the singles draw. The doubles team of Manasse and fellow junior Denise Starr, which just won the championship at the All-American, will also not be competing. Both have already claimed a spot in the National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships in New York, taking place this November, and as they do not need the match experience, they won’t be sent to compete.
Stanford’s Carol Zhao, the No. 1 singles player in the country, won the singles draw in last year’s tournament, knocking off senior Klara Fabikova, Manasse and sophomore Karla Popovic in three consecutive three-set matches. With Manasse sitting out the singles draw, Fabikova, Popovic and Starr represent the best chances for Cal to claim a singles title.
Fabikova will be teamed up with freshman Olivia Hauger in doubles after playing all of her earlier matches with Popovic. They had mixed results as a team, and Cal head coach Amanda Augustus is looking to tinker with her pairings in the fall season before setting her lineup for the spring slate.
“The fall is about — other than (Manasse) and (Starr), who’ve shown they’re a top team in the country — trying different teams, building into our top three teams for the spring season,” Augustus said. “(Hauger) is very well experienced and well traveled — she played a lot of international events before she came to Cal. It’s a very good opportunity for her, in singles and doubles.”
Last year’s doubles draw was won by Fabikova and now-Cal undergraduate assistant coach Zsofi Susanyi, who were seeded third in the draw. In the finals, they defeated their teammates Manasse and Starr, a duo that was seeded first.
“Because I played with (Susanyi) the whole last year, I kind of got to know what I like and dislike. She can remind me what I learned, because sometimes you can sort of forget,” Fabikova said. “It always feels good to beat Stanford, especially on their home courts. It’s cool that the regionals are down there, because we get to play on their courts, and we’re most likely playing them in the late rounds, so it’s good preparation for the spring matches we’ll have against them.”
Andrew Wild covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected]