In a series of invites and dual matches, Cal women’s tennis has been carving out a path to success — en route to indoor nationals. Now, in the final stretch, the team is playing its last match before the big tournament in the first part of the spring season.
The Bears will be playing an indoor match against Michigan on Feb. 8, before they go on to vie for a national win at the ITA National Women’s Team Indoor Championship.
So far this season, the team won 33 out of 35 matches at the Hawaii Invitational, as well as securing the doubles title and winning all but two matches at the Cal Winter Invitational. The Bears have also dazzled both home and away, not losing a single dual match so far and going 4-0. Beating UCSB, Pepperdine, BYU and Vanderbilt, the Bears’ growls can be heard far and wide as they sit in the No. 4 spot in the national rankings.
The Michigan match will be a chance to practice playing indoors right before the championship, which starts three days later.
“They’re a very good indoor team, we’ll need to be ready,” said head coach Amanda Augustus, who coached Michigan 15 years ago before returning to her alma mater Cal. “But it’ll definitely help us get ready for the rest of the championship.”
The team qualified for indoor nationals after a great performance at the ITA Kickoff Weekend. Beating both BYU and Vanderbilt 4-0 at home, it breezed through a seemingly easy set of matches to reach the top and earn a nationals spot.
Now, No. 4 Cal is looking to repeat its 2016 win at the championship.
At the ITA Kickoff Weekend, coach Augustus switched the doubles teams around to see if Cal’s doubles score (then zero) could improve. Junior Erin Richardson played with seasoned senior Julia Rosenqvist instead of her regular partner, freshman Jessica Alsola. The newest recruit Katja Wiersholm played with Alsola instead.
With the switch, Cal ended up posting doubles wins on both days and earning its first two doubles points of the season. Coach Augustus says the pairings are likely to remain at least through the end of the national championship.
“I was happy with what I saw last weekend,” Augustus said. “We’ll kind of see after this trip if either we’re happy with them and we stay, or if we tweak them a little bit more.”
The only doubles wins of the season, however, have come playing on the blue and gold home turf. The Bears have to make sure they keep up their confidence when playing away from home with a lack of supportive cheers and friends and family in the stands.
Cal will be heading straight to Madison, Wisconsin for indoor nationals following its match against Michigan. The match — a sort of trial run — will be the only indoor match the team will play in preparation for the championship.
In singles, the Bears likely have little to worry about in terms of their own strength. So far this season, the team has been showing off great performances, only occasionally getting thrown off by its opponents.
Junior Haley Giavara has struggled against strong opponents earlier in the season. Always the court-one match, her opponents are often naturally stronger than some of the others. At the Cal Winter Invitational, Giavara lost against Saint Mary’s Mariia Kozyreva, who was a very strong opponent and ended up taking the singles title at the invite. As one of the strongest players on the team, she is certainly one to watch out for in the coming week.
With only one match to go before nationals, the Bears are looking to boost their confidence and notch another win onto their belt.
Maria Kholodova covers women’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected].