Whenever UCLA and USC come to town, there is a guarantee of good, hard-fought tennis.
With both the Bruins and Trojans boasting stronger teams than last year, No. 18 Cal women’s tennis will have to be up to the challenge if the team wants to continue its recent success against two of its Pac-12 South rivals.
After a slightly disappointing performance at the Indoor Championships, Cal will look to bounce back when it takes on No. 9 UCLA and the No. 26 Trojans on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
“It’s always disappointing to lose. But the opportunity to play against some of the best teams will bode well for us entering Pac-12 play,” said Cal head coach Amanda Augustus.
After bad weather canceled practice for much of the week, Cal will be at a bit of a disadvantage.
“It’s definitely been tough, but we found brief windows of time where we could practice,” Augustus said. “We were able to have a good practice today, which was nice.”
When the Bears face the Bruins on Friday, they will have to look out for the dynamic pair of freshman Ena Shibahara and redshirt freshman Jada Hart. Shibahara, currently ranked No. 2 in the ITA singles ranking, has dominated play all season. Shibahara and Hart are also the defending US Open Girls Double Team Champions. The two are currently No. 4 in the country.
UCLA will be riding high after a convincing performance against USC on Feb. 18, when it defeated the Trojans, 4-3. Leading the charge for the Bruins were Shibahara and Hart, who won each of their respective singles matches along with their doubles match. While the Bruins led 4-1, the match was fully played out. USC ended up winning the last two singles matches, which will certainly give the Trojans confidence entering their matchup against Cal.
Cal will look to stymie the Bruin and Trojan attack after a 10-day break. Maya Jansen, the Pac-12 player of the week from Feb. 12, will look to continue her strong play as well as her undefeated run of singles matches dating back to the beginning of the ITA Indoor Championship.
With both matches likely to be close, it will certainly come down to experience. Cal’s veterans, led by junior Karla Popovic, senior Maegan Manasse and transfer graduate student Maya Jansen, will have to come up big in their matches against their younger opponents. If the Bears are able keep it close late, there is a good chance that they can come out on top. Either way, these early matches will serve as a good benchmark to see how the Bears match up against some of the better teams in the Pac-12 conference.
“With the games on the Pac-12 network, it should be good exposure for our program and school,” Augustus said. “They will be great matches, as always.”
Tennis fans will rejoice at the sight of good tennis in Berkeley, especially after bad weather finally cleared the Bay Area. But the goal remains anything but cloudy: win a Pac-12 regular season championship.