Cal's women's tennis team doesn't get to play indoors very often. When it does, there are more differences than just a lack of uncontrollable elements.
In addition to the fact there is no wind, glaring sun or fluctuating temperature, there is nowhere to hide. And that is a good thing.
Because of the confined quarters, teammates are naturally closer to each other. That, in turn, fosters more of a team dynamic.
"It's so intense because we cheer so loud on the court," said Cal sophomore Zsofi Susanyi, the seventh-ranked singles player in the country. "It's so much more fun because of that. It's different because it's indoors and we're kind of close."
The No. 7 Bears gets one of their two indoor experiences of the year this weekend at the ITA National Women's Team Indoor Championship at the Boar's Head Sports Club in Charlottesville, Va. Cal, the No. 5 seed in the field, meets No. 16 Michigan on Friday at 3:30 p.m. PT.
The Bears are one of 15 teams that advanced to the event by winning a ITA Kickoff Weekend title two weeks ago. Host Virginia rounds out the 16-team field. The Bears have reached the semifinals of the Indoor Championships in three of the past four years, including last season.
"Last year, a bunch of us lost our voices because we were cheering so loud for each other," Susanyi said. "It's a really big deal. No matter what, we are going out there to do whatever we can do to win for the team. It's so much better to win for all of us."
The Indoor Championship traditionally serves as a barometer for the nation's top teams early in the season. Most of the country's elite programs will be in Charlottesville, and the Bears are eager to see where they stack up against top competition.
"It's a national championship," Cal coach Amanda Augustus said. "It's early in the team season, so everyone is kind of getting a first look at everyone's team lineup at this time of year. It's a good opportunity for us to play out of region and play ranked teams that wouldn't ordinarily come out here and play us in a regular-season match.
Augustus said she is especially interested in exploring her doubles combinations to see what will be the team's best lineup moving forward. The Bears are strong at the top of their singles lineup with Susany and junior Anett Schutting, the nation's No. 9 singles player.
"Doubles-wise, do we have the right combination?" Augustus said. "We're pretty fortunate this year to have pretty good depth on the team, so I think we have a lot of options in terms of doubles. This is kind off a first look at it. We can move stuff around a bit. We need that doubles point to beat top-5, top-10 teams. That doubles point is huge."
Cal had a strong showing at the annual indoor championship in the fall, the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. Schutting advanced to the finals while Susanyi made the semis.
Susanyi is Cal's No. 1 singles player. She advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Singles championships as a freshman last season.
"Everyone knows Zsofi from last year," Augustus said. "I think she's ready for it and I think she's excited about it. She knows it's going to be tough."