Fine wine, cheese and the Cal women’s tennis team. Some things just get better with age.
It’s a new season, and this year, a “fresh start” doesn’t have to mean “rebuilding.” As the Bears officially kick off the 2018-19 season with their annual Cal Fall Invitational this Friday, every face on the roster will already have significant college tennis experience. Not many teams can say that.
That’s because last season, head coach Amanda Augustus successfully recruited a whopping five freshmen, including budding superstar Anna Bright, the No. 2 recruit in the class of 2017 according to tennisrecruiting.net. In fact, Augustus’ impressive ability to attract starpower to Cal is in part because of her history as one of the most successful college athletes in Golden Bear history. Augustus and her former doubles partner, Amy Jensen, captured Cal’s first NCAA title in women’s tennis in 1998, becoming the first unseeded team in history to do so. They did it again in 1999. Sixteen years later, the two were named the Pac-12 doubles team of the century.
Needless to say, Augustus understands exactly how to cultivate a winning team in Berkeley. Going into this weekend, she’s looking forward to a well-matured and even more competitive team than in 2017.
“I think last year we had a younger team and some injuries, so I think really it’s a new year and the returning group has a lot to look forward to,” Augustus said. “Everybody trains hard over the summer — that’s the best part to us as coaches.”
The fall season that begins this weekend is different from the spring in various ways, consisting only of a few invitationals and tournaments rather than dual matches between schools. Augustus uses these coming months of September through December as a sort of barometer for gauging player progress, health and the lineup after New Year’s.
“The fall results are something we look at when making decisions in the spring,” Augustus said. “There’s a lot of opportunity for everyone to establish themselves.”
Regardless of the time of year, a look at the Bears’ depth chart quickly proves that this year has the potential to be especially exciting. Senior Olivia Hauger, sophomore Anna Bright and sophomore Julia Rosenqvist are all currently ranked in the preseason top 30 for singles, and the doubles team of Hauger and Rosenqvist boasts a preseason ranking as well. Besides the well-proven pair, Augustus iterated that several new doubles configurations are going to be experimented with in the coming months.
Rosenqvist put up a strong freshman season, ranking as high as No. 34 nationwide in singles last season and finishing her first semester in Berkeley with a convincing 13-10 singles record. She also won her first professional tournament this summer — an astounding achievement for any college tennis player.
Bright is also seeking another successful season after taking down both Syracuse’s eighth-ranked Gabriela Knutson and UCLA’s 27th-ranked Jada Hart in singles last season as a freshman.
The lady Bears struggled slightly last season in comparison to their stellar track record of the past, finishing with a 11-9 record and ending unranked. But last year’s investment in a younger roster is poised to pay dividends this time around, and the team’s ambitions never sink below knocking off the toughest competition in the NCAA.
“Something we’re about is winning national titles for Cal,” Augustus said. “Our goal is to get as many Bears qualified as we can, and our first opportunity to do that is this weekend.”
The Bears will kick off the season in Berkeley at the Cal Fall Invitational, beginning Friday, with 10 other teams from around the West competing for the title. Singles and doubles matches each have their own draw, and every player will play each day. Augustus expressed her confidence that several Bears will be present in the championship round Sunday and is hoping for a strong crowd to cheer her players on.
After finishing up Sunday, the Bears will participate in two more invitationals and three more ITA championships this fall, including the ITA National Fall Championships in November.
With nine out of nine players carrying collegiate experience into the season, Cal is confident that its talent and maturity can lead the program back to its historically dominant ways.