Jan. 10, 2002
Over the past two decades, the University of California has established itself as one of the nation's elite women's tennis programs. The numbers speak for themselves. As a team, the Bears have made four Final Four appearances since 1985 and 12 NCAA quarterfinal appearances since 1983. Individually, Cal has had an All-American every year since 1985 and at least two All-Americans for 15 consecutive seasons.
When asked what she expects of her team this season, women's tennis head coach Jan Brogan looked to a bulletin board on the other side of her office where the team has posted its goals for the 2002 campaign.
She read, "Return to the Final Four, win the Pac-10 Conference and have four singles and two doubles All-Americans."
Lofty expectations for a team in which nine out of the ten players have only one year or less of intercollegiate experience.
"Young is an excuse," stated Brogan. "We have a very good team, a very solid team. If a team with five freshmen can finish in the top ten, I can't see less than that" for the 2002 squad.
From the 2001 team - which sported five freshmen and finished ranked No. 7 nationally, advancing to the Round of 16 at the NCAA tournament -comes a young but experienced team of seven veterans and three top recruits.
"We're deep, we're solid all the way down the lineup," said Brogan.
Returning All-American and 2001 Pac-10 Rookie of the Year Raquel Kops-Jones leads the way once again for the Bears. Playing mostly out of the third court, Kops-Jones compiled a 15-8 dual singles record (30-16 overall) as a freshman. Filling in for departed senior Anita Kurimay during the early part of the 2001 campaign, Kops-Jones recorded a 3-3 in the No. 1 court.
"Raquel has a big game," said Brogan of her highly touted sophomore. "Walking in the door as a freshman, she is probably the second-best recruit Cal's ever had. She's one of the most dynamic female athletes in college tennis."
Following Kops-Jones, Brogan believes that any one of her starters can play anywhere in the team's lineup.
"A lot of our players could play in the two through six courts. To be a top team, you need that quality," said Brogan.
Returning to the second court this year where she played all but three matches last season and posted a 14-5 record, junior Christina Fusano will once again be counted upon to come up big for the Bears. Fusano, entering her third season under Brogan's tutelage, has developed into a threat from anywhere on the court.
"Christina is one of the smartest players I have ever coached," said Brogan of her most experienced player. "She leads us on and off the court as the captain."
Moving from the fifth spot to challenge for time on the No. 3 and 4 courts is sophomore Catherine Lynch of Dublin, Ireland, who a solid off-season and superior fall. Lynch, who surprised many by advancing to the quarterfinals at the Omni Hotels Northwest Regional Challenge, is known for her relentless work ethic.
"The ball machine's nickname is Catherine," said Brogan. "She has stood out more than anybody for her hard work. She's the most improved player on the team."
Also in the mix for time in the middle courts are sophomore Jieun Jacobs, sophomore Nicole Havlicek, top recruit Carla Arguelles and sophomore transfer Jody Scheldt. Jacobs, a sophomore who spent time on both the third and fourth courts last season, and spliced together a 15-8 record in dual matches.
"In the back draw at the (Thunderbirds Classic), Jieun really picked up her game," said assistant coach Jun Hernandez. "She showed her toughness."
Havlicek played last season on the No. 5 and No. 6 courts, posting a 3-5 record in dual matches.
"Nicole's game has come to a new level," said Brogan. "She's now an all-courter."
Even though she enters Cal as a freshman, the 20-year old Arguelles will be looked to as a more mature player, despite her lack of collegiate experience.
Scheldt, who will be joining the Bears in the spring of 2002 from the University of Iowa, is what Brogan describes as a "right handed, offensive style, all court" player. She compiled a 7-4 singles record in her year at Iowa.
Case, who had a 3-4 singles record during the 2001 campaign, all in tournaments, could get the chance to join the singles lineup this season.
Borisoff will return to action in February after recovering from shoulder surgery.
For the Bears, doubles looks to be wide open coming into the season, as Brogan has tried seven different combinations during the fall.
"We have a lot of really strong possibilities," explained Brogan. "Nothing has really stood out yet."
Entering the season, Brogan plans to pair Kops-Jones with the newcomer Scheldt in the No. 1 court. Kops-Jones played with the departed Anita Kurmay in the top court last season, etching a 12-7 record there. Scheldt spent time in the first slot last season as well, posting a 4-2 mark for the Hawkeyes.
Havlicek and Lynch look to team in the second court and third courts. The pair only played one match together last season, but competed at the Thunderbirds Invitational during the fall and made it to the quarterfinals.
Fusano and Arguelles will also see action in the second or third spots to open up the season, but could be challenged by a teaming of Jacobs and either Case or freshman Del Rosario.
"Kristin and Rio are great doubles players," said Brogan of the potential pairing. "Rio is a very athletic, all court player."
The doubles combinations available for Brogan are many, and the challenge will be finding the two players who can compliment each other's abilities and skills on the court, and develop a winning chemistry.
"We will have four really strong, even teams," promised Brogan.