No. 17 Cal women’s tennis prepare to battle UCLA, UCSB

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Lisi Ludwig/Senior Staff

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Undefeated at home and out for revenge, the No. 17 Cal women’s tennis team (4-1) faces No. 3 UCLA for the second time this season and UC Santa Barbara in back-to-back affairs this weekend.

The Bears climbed two spots in the Oracle Intercollegiate Tennis Association, or ITA, rankings after they steamrolled through Pacific 7-0 last week. ITA took record of Cal’s third straight win and a continuation of success in doubles play, which was a point of emphasis for head coach Amanda Augustus.

“The most important thing is that we’re prepared to play. We’ve had a good week of practice,” Augustus said. “It will be good to see UCLA again. We’ll most likely have different doubles teams from what they saw last time, so that’s going to be a good gauge for us.”

UCLA routed Cal in its first meeting of the season 4-0 last month at the ITA Kickoff Opener. The Bears will be keen on snapping their eight-match losing streak against the Bruins to remain in the hunt for a high seed in the Pac-12 Championships.

UCLA has been relentless so far this season with victories over No. 21 Texas A&M, No. 13 Oklahoma State and No. 4 Pepperdine. The team’s one loss came in a narrow defeat to No. 2 Texas in the semifinal round of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships on Feb. 6.

For the Bruins, junior Elysia Bolton and graduate student Jada Hart are the No. 1 doubles pair in the country and have both already earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honors this season. Cal sophomore Haley Giavara is looking forward to the prospect of such a daunting challenge.

“The energy is palpable in our team and we’ve been anticipating it all week,” Giavara said. “So we’ve been training hard and getting our bodies ready physically and mentally. We are just really excited to play them this weekend.”

Sunday’s match offers a more tangible opponent in UCSB, who has evaded the Bears over the last two seasons due to scheduling conflicts. The Gauchos open their season against UC Davis on Saturday in their first match in 11 months. They finished last spring with a 5-8 record before cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cal has won its last three matchups against UCSB, with the blue and gold’s last significant win over the Gauchos having come in the 2016 NCAA Tournament second round 4-0.

If weather permits, Hellman Tennis Complex promises to be a spectacle for some of the top tennis competitions in the country. Although no fans are allowed in attendance, the Bears are fortunate for the opportunity.

“It’s just exciting to have this weekend of matches,” Giavara said. “We’re very lucky to play these teams and we’re super excited for our season.”

Spencer Golanka covers men’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @sgolanka.