The only thing harder than getting to the top is staying there. This will most likely be running through the heads of the No. 1 Cal women’s tennis team as it travels to Southern California to take on No. 11 USC on Friday and No. 22 UCLA on Saturday.
Despite both the Trojans and Bruins being out of the top 10, winning will be in no way an easy feat for the Bears, even with more than a week to prepare since winning the ITA Indoor Championship.
“We’ve been focusing a lot on our doubles this week, so we’re looking forward to seeing kind of how that goes this weekend,” said Cal head coach Amanda Augustus. “These will be our first outdoor matches in a couple weeks so we’ve kind of been working on some things doubles-wise to hopefully help us be successful down there in L.A. this weekend.”
Singles players to look out for are the four ranked Bears: No. 5 Klara Fabikova, No. 13 Maegan Manasse, No. 102 Olivia Hauger and No. 121 Denise Starr. Cal has really been focusing on its doubles teams, indicating high expectations for the upcoming matches. Consistently top-ranked junior Manasse seems to agree with the strategy and is excited for the competition with the team’s California rivals.
“Well, I know after Indoors we lost a doubles point so I think, especially playing against UCLA and USC, they have really good doubles,” Manasse said. “For the last two weeks we’ve been practicing a lot on poaching and doubles skills here and there, and really going back to basics, and I think it’ll be really good for us to see how much our hard work has taken us.”
Friday’s match at Marks Stadium should be the more challenging of the two for the Bears. The last meeting between Cal and USC was almost a year ago with the Trojans taking the win, 4-3. This season, USC is 3-2 and has five ranked singles players, as well as the No. 11 doubles pair of Giuliana Olmos and Gabby Smith. While the Trojans may contain a little more depth, Cal definitely has the lead in rankings with two singles players in the top 20 and a doubles team of Manasse and Starr ranked No. 2 nationally.
UCLA, with a 5-2 record, will have played coming off of a 4-0 loss to No. 15 Pepperdine after last week’s 4-0 win against UC Davis and 4-1 win over Cal State Northridge. The competition should not be nearly as intense as it will be against USC, but the Bruins do have a No. 18-ranked singles player, Catherine Harrison. UCLA will also be the second match of the double-header, so the Bears will have to rally and refresh in order to get off to a strong start at the Los Angeles Tennis Center.
“Well, any school that we play is always going to be tough, so for every match I’m always expecting a really tough match,” Manasse said. “We’re always going to be competing super hard on every court and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Cal is definitely favored in both matches, and while the double-header may provide a challenge, the Bears will be expected to remain No. 1 after this weekend is over.