After a rain-enforced break, Cal women’s tennis is set to come back to the court this weekend, facing two more Pac-12 opponents in USC and UCLA. Cal’s season has been riddled with rain delays and rescheduling, making it hard to get on-court time to prepare for tough matches.
Earlier this season, Cal was set to play UCLA in a nonconference match that was canceled due to rain. While that match ended up being replaced by a matchup against Miami later in the season, it means that this will be Cal’s first time facing the Bruins this year.
This has been a tough stretch for Cal, with the team going 4-5 in the spring so far. Splitting their first two conference matches in early March with a loss against Utah and a win against Colorado, the Bears will be looking to get back into the win column this weekend.
“We’re just excited to get out there and play — because it’s been a while,” said Cal head coach Amanda Augustus. “I think we’re ready to go, I think the weather looks good down there, so that’s good, (that’s been) the biggest thing on our plate lately.”
While neither USC nor UCLA are in the current top 20 in collegiate standings, the teams have several ranked players in singles and doubles that could give Cal trouble this weekend.
UCLA, ranked No. 30 as of March 21, has three singles players in the top 100, including No. 23 Fangran Tian, who has yet to lose a match this season. The three are accompanied in ITA rankings by No. 6 doubles team Kimmi Hance and Elise Wagle.
USC finds itself lower than its crosstown rival, at No. 38, but boasts a top-five singles player in Madison Sieg. Along with two other singles players in the top 100, the Trojans have two doubles teams ranked No. 22 and No. 33.
The top-ranked doubles teams will prove tough for Cal, whose doubles teams have been struggling all season. Augustus said that doubles is something the team has been “continually working on” in its practices, in hopes of closing out important points and battling against these strong opponents.
That being said, there are several crucial assets Cal boasts going into these matches, including a top-ranked doubles team of its own. Cal’s No. 15 ranked sophomore duo in Jessica Alsola and Katja Wiersholm will be its strongest team going into the matchup, should they be chosen for the lineup.
The team has been thrillingly dynamic on the court, playing several close matches, despite its 2-3 record. Talented singles players as well, Alsola and Wiersholm are able to bring good communication and unique shots on the court, both at the net and at the baseline.
Another big storyline going into this weekend is the return of Cal senior and former court two player Valentina Ivanov, who has been out due to injury for the entirety of spring. In late February, Ivanov said her recovery from knee surgery was going faster than expected, and that she had already been training and back on the court.
“That’s a good development over the last couple of weeks,” Augustus said. “Happy to have a senior and a regular contributor back from injury.”
Following a tough start to the season, Cal is now ranked No. 61 nationally. This weekend will be important for the team to get some key wins against tough Pac-12 opponents — and get valuable on-court playing time. Traveling once again, this will be the Bears’ third and fourth conference matches away before returning to their home Hellman Tennis Complex on March 31 to host ASU for their first home conference match.