Cal women’s tennis visits Southern California after unexpected break

A woman preparing to hit a tennis ball.
Nicholas Chun/File
A woman preparing to hit a tennis ball.

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Does an extended period of rest do more harm than good for a team midseason? The jury is still out — some say that the added recovery will have a team back better than ever, while others say that rust induced from not playing for so long can impact its play in the first couple of matches back.

Cal women’s tennis is about to find out for itself, up close and personal.

After almost three weeks without having played a match, Cal (2-1) will head down to Southern California to face San Diego State (5-1) on Friday and No. 7 Pepperdine (3-1) on Saturday.

These matchups were originally scheduled for Feb. 1 and Feb. 2 but were postponed because of forecasts of rain at each respective school.

The Bears have defeated the Aztecs in each of the past three seasons and should expect to this time around as well. No Aztec was ranked in singles play in the most recent poll of the top 125 released Feb. 6 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, or ITA.

Cal senior Olivia Hauger climbed from No. 35 to No. 28, riding a strong start to the year. Hauger led the comeback against then-No. 11 Florida in Cal’s first game of the dual match season and also clinched victory against Arizona State five days later.

The Bears’ second opponent this weekend, the Waves, will be a much more formidable opponent, boasting the top-ranked doubles duo nationwide and two top-60 singles players.

Pepperdine easily won its four-team bracket at this year’s ITA Kick-Off, stringing together two 4-0 sweeps against UNLV and Denver. The Waves then went on to defeat the No. 10 Syracuse Orange in the round of 16 of ITA Indoors.

The Waves’ Evgeniya Levashova has not lost a match so far on the young year, certainly earning her No. 13 ranking. The sophomore is one half of the best pair in the country, along with junior Ashley Lahey.

Cal finished its last set of matches with a renewed focus on the doubles point after playing well in singles for most of the early schedule.

The Bears have failed to win the point in each of their three matches thus far, despite having a strong first-line duo in sophomores Anna Bright and Jasie Dunk, who are ranked No. 22 nationally. Going into Malibu, however, looking for that first doubles point could be a recipe for disappointment.

It will, more likely than not, come against the Aztecs the day before the Bears play the Waves, but a similar assumption could have been made before the match against Arizona State two weeks ago. Cal won decisively, 4-1, but conceded doubles in the consolation round in Columbia.

If the Bears want to pull off another upset like they did to start the year against Florida, they will need the doubles point and more. It is certainly doable and would be a massive stepping stone for a promising young team.

Dev Navani covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].