Freshman of Cal women’s tennis to join veterans at Fall Nationals

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Tonight, the Los Angeles Dodgers will look to extend the 2017 World Series to a winner-take-all Game 7. One of the main pieces that should play a part in achieving that goal is rookie Cody Bellinger, who began the year in the minors and is now viewed as one of the most dangerous hitters the majors has to offer.

Like Bellinger, another first-year player is making a significant impression during big events. Starting tomorrow, Cal women’s tennis’s budding star freshman Anna Bright will join senior Karla Popovic and junior Olivia Hauger at the ITA Fall Nationals in Indian Wells this week after compiling an impactful 12-2 singles record in her career at Cal thus far.

Despite her freshman status, Bright was no secret coming out of high school. As a consensus top-five recruit in her class, she made the cross country voyage from Florida to Northern California, where she has become a staple in Cal head coach Amanda Augustus’ already deep lineup. While opposing coaches surely know who she is on paper, her early-season dominance is a reflection of how quickly she has burst onto the scene. With Popovic and Hauger near-locks to qualify for Nationals at the beginning of the year, the emergence of Bright has provided the Bears with another name to the national conversation.

When last seen in action, Bright was one of three Bears who reached the single quarterfinals at the Northwest Regional Championships. Despite an uphill battle in her final match in which Stanford freshman Michaela Gordon outplayed Bright with a 6-1, 6-0 performance, Cal’s star freshman did enough early in the season to earn a spot in the national tournament. In addition to Popovic and Hauger, Bright will compete in the singles main draw while the veterans will look to rebound in the doubles draw after losing in the regional finale last weekend.

While Popovic and Hauger have developed chemistry over previous years, their first loss of the fall season reflected some areas in their game that the No. 11-ranked pair can improve upon.

“I think we really need to improve our first-serve percentage, and we’ll work on that in particular more in practice,” Augustus said.

With this week representing the final tournaments of the fall season, the rest of the team will get one last shot to prove themselves heading into the winter hiatus before spring season. Led by junior Maria Smith, whose quarterfinal appearance at regionals represented her best finish at the tournament, the Bears will take on stiff competition and warm Arizona weather at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational.

After receiving their first taste of Pac-12 action last week with competitions against Stanford and Oregon, Cal’s new faces, including freshmen Vivian Glozman and Jasie Dunk, will get an introduction to more in-conference foes. With Arizona State and Colorado on the schedule for this weekend, the Bears are confident that they can pull out another impressive overall performance, even with a trio of teammates at Nationals.

“We’ve definitely showed that we’re going to be strong this year,” Augustus said. “Hopefully there are more ranked wins coming up (this) weekend.”

With a two-month pause separating this weekend from the team’s next tournament, expect all the cards to be left out on the court by the end of it.

Josh Yuen covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].