Jan. 24, 2008
BERKELEY - Experience is the name of the game for the 2008 California women's tennis team. The Golden Bears return seven players from a 2007 squad that went 23-7 overall on its way to Cal's first appearance in the national semifinal of the NCAA Championships since 2003. Completing last season's campaign with a No. 5 national ranking, the Bears return to the court this season looking to improve on last years impressive postseason run.
The experience of the players on the court will usher in a new era in Cal women's tennis as first year head coach Amanda Augustus returns to her alma mater to take the helm of a program she once won national championships for. With the arrival of Augustus, the Bears bid farewell to nearly three decades of experience with the retirement of Jan Brogan, who guided the Cal women to 26 appearances in NCAA postseason play. Augustus will take over for a coach that saw her players achieve All-America honors on 71 occasions and took home conference coach of the year honors seven times herself.
The Bears are led by two-time All-American senior Susie Babos. Also a three-time member of the All-Pac-10 team, Babos claimed her third individual national championship in the fall as she captured the Riviera All-American Championship title for the second consecutive year. As a sophomore, she won the NCAA Singles Championship and received Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors in 2005. Compiling a 37-12 doubles record with partner Zsuzsanna Fodor, the two earned 2007 Pac-10 Doubles Team of the Year recognition. As one of the most decorated Golden Bear players in school history, Babos has registered at least 30 singles wins in each of her three seasons at Cal. She will look to continue her steady performance after being named a team captain in her final season with Bears, as she heads into dual match play ranked No. 10 in the nation.
Joining Babos among the nation's ranked players are fellow seniors Marion Ravelojaona and Cristina Visico. Winner of the 2006 ASU Thunderbird Invitational, Ravelojaona holds the No. 52 ranking while Visico enters the dual season No. 54 nationally. Visico emerged from a vast field of the top players on the west coast as she advanced to the final match at the 2007 Wilson/ITA Northwest Regional Championships in the fall. With 84 career singles victories, Visico is second on the team in both total wins and winning percentage, behind only the performance of Babos. Visico was also named one of 2008's team captains.
Senior Stephanie Kusano brings added depth to the Bears and is also one part of the formidable doubles duo that includes Babos. The pair will open the dual season ranked No. 36 in the nation and have big shoes to fill to follow up the success of Babos and Fodor. Rounding out the senior class is Daron Moore, a one-time transfer from Tennessee who has become an important part of this Bear team. Moore helped put up 17 doubles victories in 2007 and looks to contribute more success this season.
Junior Bojana Bobusic will be one of the most exciting players to watch this season as she completed fall tournament play with a team-high 14 wins on her way to capturing the Cal Invitational blue flight title and advancing to the semifinal at both the Wilson/ITA Northwest Regional Championships and the ASU Thunderbird Invitational. Bobusic is the fourth Bear to be ranked to open dual match play, holding a career-high No. 31 ranking in the season's first poll. The other junior is Claire Ilcinkas, one of the Bears' newly elected team captains along with Babos and Visico. Ilcinkas put together a 9-2 singles record in the fall and went 7-3 in doubles, advancing to the semifinal at the Wilson/ITA Northwest Regional Championships with her partner. In two and a half years with the Bears, Ilcinkas has become a proven commodity, earning 54 singles wins and 55 doubles victories.
Without a single sophomore on the squad, the remaining three players joining the Bears this season come straight from the high school ranks. Freshman Marina Cossou has already begun to make her mark on the program, claiming the 2007 ASU Thunderbird Invitational singles title and advancing to the doubles semifinal with partner Ilcinkas. Only ten matches into her first season with the Bears, Cossou holds an 8-2 mark in singles play. The freshman class also includes the talents of Rachael Dillon and Bobbie Englert, the sister of former Golden Bear Hillary Englert.
Even with the departure of a long-time head coach and two All-Americans, this Bear squad is long in the tooth and has its sights set on claiming the NCAA Championship as a team after it came so close only a year ago. Balancing the arrival of new head coach Augustus is newly named associate head coach Cordell Ho who has been with the Golden Bears in a volunteer capacity for the past three years. Ho's appointment adds valuable experience and the stability component to what looks to be a strong Bear team.
The Bears open the spring hosting Fresno State, Nevada and St. Mary's in the Cal Winter Invitational Tournament (Jan. 18-20). The following weekend, Cal will take to the road to open dual match play against Long Beach State and Pepperdine. The first dual matches at Hellman Tennis Complex will take place on Feb. 3 as the Bears face San Francisco and UC Davis on the same day. Then on Feb. 7, Cal will travel to Madison, Wisc. to compete in the 2008 ITA National Team Indoor Championships. After the championships, the Bears will face their first Pac-10 opponents: rival Stanford followed by road matches at Washington State (Feb. 22) and Washington (Feb. 23). The Cal women will honor their five seniors on Apr. 18 as the Bears host Sacramento State on Senior Day before completing the dual season at Stanford on Apr. 19. The Pac-10 Championships will take place the following weekend (Apr. 24-27) in Ojai, Calif.