Bears impress in first 2018 showing, prepare to host Cal Winter Invitational

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An old face and a new one joined forces to kick off the No. 11 Cal women’s tennis team’s spring season, and both of them will play an integral role for the Bears as the new year takes its course. If this weekend was a sign for the future, there are big things ahead for Cal’s freshman class.

In her first matches since a dominating fall campaign, freshman Anna Bright swept the competition, picking up right where she left off in November, when she rose to the No. 27 ranking in singles. While leading the way in Cal’s 2018 kickoff event, the Weinman Foundation Invitational in Honolulu, Bright completed a perfect singles tournament and earned a split of the singles title with Texas A&M senior Macarena Olivares.

“[Bright’s] been training hard over winter break, and I think she’s right on track with where we want her to be,” said head coach Amanda Augustus. “Even though she’s a freshman, she’s still a very experienced player at the national level.”

Joining the Bears on the court for the first time was freshman Julia Rosenqvist, a recent spring addition to the lineup. A native of Sweden, the 6’1” Rosenqvist fell to Olivares in her singles debut for Cal before pairing with Bright for her first doubles match. Having lost multiple All-Americans at the end of last season, Augustus is optimistic that the next generation of blue and gold talent is in the works with this freshman class.

“[Rosenqvist’s] a great fit; she’s a fantastic student and is a great singles and doubles player, so I think we expect her to contribute a lot to the team,” Augustus said. “We are excited to see the freshmen step into this new chapter.”

The pair of freshmen picked up what hopes to be the first of many wins together with a 7-6 win over TCU freshmen Stevie Kennedy and Elizabeth Tedford. Bright and Rosenqvist’s tandem was one of three Cal pairs to take down a Horned Frog duo on Sunday, as juniors Olivia Hauger and Maria Smith breezed past senior Aleksandra Zenovka and junior Marie Norris 6-3. Freshman Jasie Dunk and sophomore Alexis Nelson completed the trifecta with a resounding 6-2 performance over freshman Aleksa Cveticanin and senior Alexis Pereira.

Aside from Bright, perhaps the most impressive overall singles performance came from Smith, who knocked off Hawaii senior Klara Pribylova 6-3, 6-1 to pick up her third singles win in as many days.

“[Smith] played outstanding this weekend,” Augustus said. “[Hauger] just played doubles but played pretty well as well; it’s a long season and we’re just getting going.”

After flying back from their weekend in the sun, the Bears will play host to in-state opponents St. Mary’s, Cal Poly and Fresno State in the annual Cal Winter Invitational at the Hellman Tennis Complex and Channing Tennis Courts. While this year’s field is missing two-time singles champion Maegan Manasse, it’s safe to say that the Bears have a number of candidates who will be battling for that top spot.

“Our goal is to be peaking at the NCAAs in May and with a great schedule that’s going to test us and push us a bit,” Augustus said. “It will be busy, but it will be fun, and we’re just taking it week by week.”

Josh Yuen is an assistant sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].