When Cal women’s tennis began the 2010s, they were ranked No. 3 in the nation. After performing well in their first dual bout of the season in Hawaii a decade ago, the Bears canceled the Cal Winter Invitational because of inclement weather. Nonetheless, the squad improved its rank to No. 2.
The Bears struggled to return to similar early season form as a team for the rest of its 2010 campaign, however, falling to No. 12 before they dropped out of the Pac-10 Championships race and Notre Dame eliminated them from contention in the NCAA Team Championship round of 16.
The annual Cal Winter Invitational is an ideal opportunity for early season team building — after all, the Bears typically dominate competition on their home courts and the entire roster participates. It’s arguable that the absence of this chemistry laden tournament in 2010 hurt Cal’s chances, particularly heading toward the postseason.
Now in the third decade of the 21st century, the Bears are ranked No. 18 and have started on the right (collective) foot as they stayed in Berkeley for the Cal Winter Invitational and triumphed with flying colors, completing a near-sweep over three days while securing singles and doubles titles.
Although this event typically involves Cal Poly, Saint Mary’s and Fresno State, only Cal Poly and Saint Mary’s attended the 2020 kickoff.
No. 45 junior Julia Rosenqvist, who captured the singles title in this event last year, emerged victorious once more, finishing the weekend with a perfect 3-0 record and a singles crown. In the first two days of the event, she downed both Danielle McIntyre and Jordan Harris of Saint Mary’s — 6-2, 6-3 and 6-1, 6-1 respectively. Rosenqvist left no doubt of her dominance Thursday as she throttled Cal Poly’s Susanne Boyden 6-1, 6-1 to claim the singles title Wednesday.
No. 13 duo junior Anna Bright and freshman Haley Giavara snagged the doubles title and left no doubts about their own strong performance in the final day, crushing Saint Mary’s duo of Jordan Harris and Chloe Goyette 8-1. This marks the third straight year that Bright won the event despite shifting partners.
No. 100 Bright and No. 21 Giavara also finished unbeaten in singles play over the course of the tournament, as did senior Katerina Stloukalova, freshman Erin Richardson and junior Jessica Zeynel.
Although Bright and Giavara’s pairing was the most impressive line of the weekend from the doubles side for the Bears, the squad experimented successfully with pairings. Richardson and Stloukalova clobbered the St. Mary’s pairing of Lene Mari Hovda and Aubane Ville 8-1 on Tuesday, while Richardson and Rosenqvist defeated Saint Mary’s McIntyre and Gabriela Tevez 8-2 on Wednesday.
The Bears almost had a perfect record altogether, finishing 27-7 over the 34 matches in which they competed.
Although the last decade began with the cancellation of the fundamental, annual Cal Winter Invitational, this decade’s outset was different. The Bears are getting comfortable with themselves and with the new season, and their performance proves their conviction for the year ahead.
The Bears won’t begin out-of-tournament dual match play until Feb. 21 against UCLA, but they will see action at the end of January in Lawrence, Kansas for the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, where they will face No. 21 Virginia on Jan. 24.
Ethan Waters is an assistant sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].