Jan. 20, 2012
BERKELEY - The eighth-ranked California women's tennis team opens its 2012 campaign as hosts of No. 70 Santa Clara for a Sunday-afternoon dual at Hellman Tennis Complex on Jan. 22. This season, the Golden Bears return a solid core of experienced players to go with a youth movement that has quickly established itself as a viable cog to Cal's success.
"We're very excited for this season," said fifth-year head coach Amanda Augustus. "We have a nice mix of youth and experience."
Last spring, the Bears made their 30th appearance in the NCAA championship tournament and advanced to the round of 16 as the ninth seed, but had their run cut short in a 4-3 loss to eighth-seeded Georgia. The dual came down to the top court where top-ranked Jana Juricova was edged, 6-4, in the third set by Chelsey Gullickson. Juricova got her revenge, however, as she took out defending NCAA singles champion Gullickson in the quarterfinals on her way to claiming the 2011 NCAA singles title; Cal's second.
"We had a great season, last year," said Augustus. "[It was] capped off with Jana [Juricova]'s NCAA singles championship and her Player of the Year honors, and all of the accolades that come with a fabulous season. This fall, we had two freshmen come in and saw the continued development of our returning players. We have a deeper team, this year, and that's really going to help us progress through the season."
Augustus, who is just two wins shy of her 100th as a collegiate head coach, has guided her Cal squads to three 20-win seasons and made history as her Bears advanced to the NCAA title match in each of her first two seasons on campus. Juricova and seniors Stephany Chang and Catalina Visico were part of the 2008-09 squad that fell to Duke, 4-2, in the 2009 championship match.
"It's a big goal for the seniors to get us back there, this season," said Augustus. "They want to have one more shot to play for the championship as a team. They have really been driven, in their last year, and have motivated their teammates through that drive. We have great leadership, this year, and I think our team--at this point in the season--has really gelled."
Cal's seniors will have a more-than-worthy group of Bears to lead into battle, this spring. The team boasts six singles players ranked in the top 85 of the first 2012 ITA rankings. Juricova leads the way at No. 5, but freshman Zsofi Susanyi is not far behind at No. 21. Junior Tayler Davis (No. 32), freshman Cecilia Estlander (No. 64), sophomore Anett Schutting (No. 74), and junior Annie Goransson (No. 81) round out Cal's formidable singles lineup.
Sophomore Alice Duranteau enjoyed a successful fall season, and could be a factor as the spring gets under way and freshman walk-on Laura Posylkin joined the Bears after the fall season to add to the team's depth.
"One of the things we really pride ourselves on is developing our players," said Augustus. "With six players ranked in the top 85, that really shows that we're not just strong at the top. Everyone has really established themselves, and I think we'll really be a force to be reckoned with. We have such diverse players that play different game styles, so we have the flexibility to see where everyone fits."
Cal's depth and experience will be tested, early, as the Bears host the ITA Kick-Off Weekend on Jan. 27-28. With two victories, the Bears can book their return trip to the ITA National Indoor Championships.
"We'll be challenged with our matches," said Augustus. "The Indoor Championships come up, quick, and we always aim to be in that tournament. That's where we get a pretty good sense of all the top schools in the country and where we stand among those squads."
With the addition of Colorado and Utah to the Pac-12 conference, this season, the Bears have a treacherous road schedule through which the team has back-to-back weekends in the northwest to take on Washington and Oregon, and then to the mountains to take on Colorado and Utah.
Cal always faces some of the toughest competition in the country as part of the Pac-12 and this season is no different. The road back to the NCAA championship match won't be an easy one, but this Bear squad knows what it takes and has all of the pieces it needs to make it.