By Jonathan Okanes
Cal Bear Blog
Visit any court during the Cal Winter Invitational this weekend and there’s a good chance you may find a Cal women’s tennis player good enough to play in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Coach Amanda Augustus is fielding a deep team, with four players ranked in the top 31 of the initial ITA singles poll.
“We’re fortunate this season in that we have a lot of players that can play in a lot of different spots in the lineup,” Augustus said. “As a coach, that’s a nice problem to have. I think we can qualify four or five players for the NCAA singles at a whole bunch of positions.”
Cal has long been a fixture in the national rankings and NCAA Tournament, and this spring should be no different. The Bears have a mix of experience and talent that could potentially result in a deep postseason run.
Junior Zsofi Susanyi is a seasoned NCAA Tournament player, having reached the national semifinals as a freshman and the Round of 16 last year. Susanyi finished 2013 as the ninth-ranked singles player in the nation.
Senior Anett Schutting, who ended last season as the country’s 10th-ranked singles player, reached the NCAA quarterfinals as a sophomore.
Despite returning two top-10 players from last season, it’s a freshman who enters the spring as the highest-rated singles player for the Bears. Denise Starr, a first-year player from Brooklyn, N.Y., is ranked No. 16 in the initial ITA singles poll after a strong fall in which she went 8-1 and reached the quarterfinals of the USTA/ITA Northwest Regional Championships after defeating 8th-ranked Krista Hardebeck of Stanford in the Round of 16.
Fellow freshman Maegan Manasse, the younger sister of former Cal tennis player Stephanie Manasse, was ranked as the 13th-best recruit by The Tennis Recruiting Network. Sophomore Klara Fabikova is also back after making it to the NCAA Round of 32 and finishing last season ranked No. 30.
Along with Starr, Susanyi is ranked 16th, Schutting is 26th and Manasse comes in at No. 31 in the first ITA singles poll of 2014.
“I think we have a pretty deep squad this year,” Augustus said. “We returned our top four players from last year, which is great. The freshmen that we had come in this year, we knew they were going to be strong and also had the potential to develop. We don’t want to break them in too quickly because it’s difficult being a freshman here at Cal. But they are doing a great job.”
This weekend’s field features Cal, Saint Mary’s, Fresno State and Cal Poly. The Gaels’ Jenny Jullien is ranked No. 7 in the ITA singles poll, the first Saint Mary’s player ever to enter the top 10. The tournament will take place at the Hellman Tennis Complex as well as Channing Courts on Friday through Sunday.
“It’s our first matches really in a couple months,” Augustus said. “It’s just good to get three days of match play and do it in a format that allows us to play eight singles and four doubles. Our whole team will get action this weekend. It’s getting back on the court, get pushed a little bit, see where we’re at, see what things we need to tinker with.”