With a high ranking come high expectations.
After being ranked 14th in Tuesday’s Oracle Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll — the team was previously No. 20 — Cal women’s tennis (6-3, 1-0) will have the opportunity to improve to a 3-0 record in conference play.
Cal will face off against Arizona (8-5, 0-2) on Friday and Arizona State (5-6, 0-2) on Saturday. All players, including No. 24-ranked senior Olivia Hauger, who did not play last week at Oregon, are expected to be in the lineup for this set of matches.
Both opponents are unranked and are thus far winless in Pac-12 play. Each lost to both of the Los Angeles teams, USC and UCLA, this past weekend in their home conference openers.
The Bears already met the Sun Devils at the beginning of the season during ITA Kick-Off Weekend in Columbia, South Carolina, where they comfortably won 4-1. The sole point surrendered by Cal was the doubles point — Arizona State boasts the sixth-ranked doubles pair, consisting of Lauryn John-Baptiste and Ilze Hattingh, in the country.
Cal head coach Amanda Augustus has made many changes to the doubles lineup since, and the Bears hold a 5-1 doubles record in matches played after the lost doubles point to the Sun Devils.
“We played them already, but we’ve changed and improved our doubles since then,” Augustus said of the rematch. “We’ll definitely look back at our notes and practice a few things doubleswise.”
The main change the Bears made was swapping the two pairings of Hauger/Julia Rosenqvist and Hana Mraz/Katerina Stloukalova. One of the highlights of Cal’s season thus far was the new-at-the-time duo of Mraz and Rosenqvist defeating the top-ranked pair in the nation in its win at then-No. 7 Pepperdine on Feb. 16.
In March 2018, the Bears lost in a 4-0 sweep to the Sun Devils in Tempe, and this weekend’s match will feature many similar characters. Hattingh and John-Baptiste have consistently played at court one and court two, respectively, this season, as they did in their victory against Cal last spring.
John-Baptiste impressed recently with a win against then-No. 10 UCLA freshman Elysia Bolton. Bolton won her singles match against Hauger in the nonconference dual match the Bears and the Bruins played earlier this year.
Both teams on the docket for Cal this weekend have proven some ability to put up a good fight when facing tough competition. Last weekend, Arizona lost 4-3 to No. 6 UCLA, and Arizona State lost 4-3 to No. 17 USC.
After playing the Arizona teams, Cal will meet Hawaii at home before beginning tougher conference play against No. 17 USC, No. 6 UCLA and No. 9 Washington.
There are some matches the Bears should expect to win as a top-15 team, and this weekend’s matches are no exception.
Dev Navani covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].