Jan. 16, 2004
After reaching the NCAA semifinal a year ago, boasting a 23-6 dual meet record, anything short of the NCAA team title for the Cal Women's Tennis team would be unthinkable. Six months removed from ending the 2003 season as the fourth rated team in the country, head coach Jan Brogan leads her 2004 squad into the spring ranked No. 3 nationally.
The Bears return a very experienced group that is one of the frontrunners for the NCAA crown. With six seniors and one of the most sought-after recruits at her disposal, Brogan can sit back in her office at the Hellman Tennis Complex and smile.
Kops-Jones enters the spring as the No. 1 player in the Northwest region and the No. 2 player in the country. She narrowly missed the nation's top spot in the ITA's preseason poll by six points to Georgia's Agata Cioroch, but Brogan is confident that Kops-Jones has a great shot of matching her doubles title with a singles title come May.
The senior from Fresno, Calif., established herself as a national force to be reckoned with in 2003, compiling a career high 44 victories, earning first team All - Pac-10 recognition and being honored with the team's Most Improved Player Award. Kops-Jones ended the season ranked No. 6 nationally in singles competition, and entered the fall No. 4. After a short stint competing on the pro circuit, including the US Open, Kops-Jones began her senior campaign in grand fashion, winning five matches in a row to capture the coveted ITA All-American Championship in early October.
Not to be outdone, Scheldt was probably the hottest Bear this fall, accumulating a team-high 10 victories, including the Bulldog Classic title in late September. Scheldt made the final of the ASU Invitational as well, but had to retire from the match do to injury. She was named the team MVP at the conclusion of the 2003 season, in which she led the team in dual meet wins (21) en route to a 32-8 overall record. Last season's breakout year, seems to only be the beginning for Scheldt, who comes into the spring No. 10 regionally and No. 60 nationally.
The Bears boast three other seniors that have all been nationally recognized throughout their careers. Catherine Lynch, Nicole Havlicek and Jieun Jacobs all enter their final seasons eager to hoist the NCAA Championship trophy above their heads.
Lynch starts out rated No. 17 regionally and No. 83 nationally. An All Pac-10 selection in 2002, Lynch has proved her worth at Cal. She has accumulated 88 singles victories in three seasons, including 28 in 2003. Havlicek, who went 6-3 in the fall and 34-9 last spring, enters the season ranked No. 22 in the region. She won the bulk of her matches last season on courts No. 4 - 6, on her way to an outstanding 19-4 dual meet record. Jacobs hobbled into the fall tournament schedule hampered by injury, but returns healthy enough this spring to make another run at an NCAA individual singles berth. Jacobs was one of three Bears that were extended and invitation a year ago, after posting a 31-10 overall record.
This group of seniors will be joined by freshman-phenom Sasha Podkolzina, this spring. Podkolzina has won 3 age-group national titles over the past few years and ended the past two season rated No. 1 nationally. Named the marquee recruit in the country by many highly ranked schools and respected tennis publications, Podkolzina finds herself ranked No. 3 regionally and No. 18 overall, without even competing in a single dual match. In her first collegiate tournament this fall, she showed signs of brilliance, winning her first five matches at the ITA Regional Championships against highly ranked opponents. She reached the final of the Northwest Regional and earned a spot at the prestigious ITA Indoor Championship in early November.
Senior Kristen Case, junior Rio Del Rosario and sophomore Jessica Shu round out the Bears' line-up in 2004. The three will be asked to provide the adequate depth, necessary, to be a national championship contender.
Case was having a solid fall campaign, before falling victim to the injury bug. Before going down with an ankle problem, Case was 4-2 with two victories at the Bulldog Classic and the St. Mary's Tournament. Shu has yet to compete in a dual match for the Bears, but has 15 career tournament wins to her credit in just her second season with the Bears. Definitely a talent, Shu will have to wait her turn behind possibly the best crop of seniors in the country. Del Rosario is 2-6 in her career in tournament action, but is constantly improving and looks to be an impact player for Brogan in the future.
As good as the Bears are in singles competition, they may actually be better in doubles action.
Brogan led yet another doubles team to the NCAA title in 2003, and looks to do the same in 2004. Christina Fusano and Kops-Jones surged to the nation's forefront late in the spring winning 24 of their last 27 matches to capture the Bears' fourth NCAA Doubles title in six years. With the departure of Fusano to graduation, Kops-Jones will have to break in a new partner in Podkolzina. Despite limited practice together, due to injury, the two were able to put together an impressive run at the ITA Regional tournament. They reached the final and earned a spot at the ITA Indoor Nationals. For their efforts they'll be ranked the No. 2 duo in the region and the No. 7 team nationally.
The Bears also have two other tandems looking to burst onto the national scene starting with Scheldt and Havlicek. Scheldt, a constant at court No. 2 last season with Jacobs as her partner, was given a new mate by Brogan this fall. After going 24-12 with Jacobs last spring, Scheldt, under the guidance of doubles-guru Brogan, meshed talents with Havlicek. The pair won six out of seven matches in the fall and brought home the ASU Invitational title in early November. They currently sit No. 10 in the region and No. 49 in the nation.
The team of Jacobs and Lynch also enter the spring as a Top-15 team in the region. The two know a lot about doubles play going a combined 46-22 (.676) in doubles competition a year ago.
With commitment, respect, support, trust and 100% effort as their battle-cry, the 2004 Cal Women's Tennis team is poised for a run at the national championship.