Isn’t 11 less than 14?
After mounting a furious comeback to upset No. 11 Florida in Gainesville, Florida, Cal women’s tennis (1-0) will head to No. 14 South Carolina (0-1) for the ITA Kickoff Weekend. By my math, in theory, the Bears should have no problem securing their second win of the young year Saturday morning.
But there’s a reason why we make the distinction between theory and practice. The transitive property does not apply in sports, and thus the unranked Bears must be prepared for another huge challenge waiting for them in Columbia.
Cal will play as the four seed in a four-team bracket with No. 14 South Carolina (1), Wake Forest (2) and fellow Pac-12 mate Arizona State (3).
If the Bears manage to pull off upsets against the South Carolina Gamecocks and whoever would await them in the next match, they would be eligible to play in the Oracle National ITA Team Indoor Championship in February.
Winning, especially as underdogs and after many days of being on the road, is much easier said than done.
The Gamecock lineup features two top-25 singles players, seniors Ingrid Gamarra Martins (No. 12) and Paige Cline (No. 25).
Cal’s leader and best player, senior Olivia Hauger (No. 35) will likely need to steal a match against Gamarra Martins for her team to advance one step closer to qualifying.
Fortunately for the Bears, Hauger has had recent success punching above her weight. She knocked off No. 9 Ida Jarlskog 6-4, 7-6(5) to clinch Cal’s win over Florida on Wednesday in its first game of the dual-match season.
Every win on the table is crucial in the race to four, and the Bears will need to come out stronger than they did in Florida to secure the doubles point. Cal lost doubles on the second and third courts before the No. 17 duo of sophomores Anna Bright and Jasie Dunk could finish their match.
But that point will be even tougher to come by on Saturday, as the Gamecocks again have two of the top-25 doubles duos in the country.
Even if Cal loses in doubles, its singles lineup looks more promising than ever. Bright (No. 57) continued her excellent singles play from last year (All Pac 12 second team) with a win against the Gators on court three. She will have the advantage to convert into a point in Columbia on court three against No. 69 Mia Horvit.
Realistic expectations are necessary for any college sports program on the rise. The Bears certainly could pull off two upsets in a row and qualify for Indoors. But one win as the lowest seed or even a strong fight against the Gamecocks in the opening round would be a tremendous first step toward a successful season.
Dev Navani covers women’s tennis, The Daily Californian’s sports blog. Contact him at [email protected].