Jan. 23, 2006
BERKELEY - The California women's tennis team enters the 2006 spring season after a successful fall showing and looks to maintain its long-established position among the nation's top programs.
"The players who have come in have made a very strong impact, especially this fall," said 28th year head coach Jan Brogan. "I think we have the talent and the hard work. One of the special qualities of this team is their spirit. The chemistry is really good and the glue that binds us is really strong. Because we have depth we won't be as threatened by injury or illness."
The Bears finished the 2005 spring season 14-9 overall, 2-5 in the Pac-10 (seventh place) and ranked 24th in the nation. For the 24th consecutive year, Cal was invited to the NCAA Tournament, where the Bears advanced to the round of 16.
With only one senior graduated from last year's squad, Brooke Borisoff, Cal has two extremely talented upperclassmen, several experienced returnees and a solid freshman class heading into the spring season. Although Brogan believes in shared leadership, senior Jessica Shu is the named captain for 2006. The San Francisco native won her first tournament this fall, after winning the singles main draw at the ASU Invitational (11/6/05).
The Bears are joined this year by junior Zsuzsanna Fodor. Fodor transferred to Cal from Mississippi State University, where she earned 2005 SEC Freshman of the Year. The Budapest, Hungary native has made an immediate impact, capturing the singles title at the ITA Regional Qualifier (10/24/05). Fodor enters the spring ranked No. 19 in singles and No. 7 in doubles with teammate Suzi Babos. The duo notched a 6-2 doubles record for the fall.
Babos, also a native of Hungary, entered the fall season with a No. 2 national ranking and reached the quarterfinals of the ITA Main Draw, qualifying her for the ITA National Indoors (she was unable to compete in the indoors after suffering a severely sprained ankle in practice). Babos was awarded 2005 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and ITA Regional Rookie of the Year for the Northwest region.
"Overall I think our singles lineup has strengthened incredibly as we return so many players," Brogan said. We have eight really solid players this year who can win just about anywhere in the lineup."
Cal will also be complimented by returning sophomores, Marion Ravelojaona, Stephanie Kusano and Cristina Visico. Ravelojaona finished the fall season with a 10-2 singles record, starting off the season 8-0.
"Ravelojaona has probably had one of the best fall seasons," Brogan said. "She has made a really strong impact on me in terms of her improvement."
Kusano competed at the ITA National Indoors as a second alternate, notching a 7-6 singles record in the fall. On the doubles court she teamed up with freshman Claire Ilcinkas to advance to the quarterfinals of the ITA Regional Qualifier, after defeating seventh seeded Burduli/Stefanova of WSU, 8-4, in the round of 16.
Visico, who Brogan said is one of the most dependable players she has ever coached, started out the fall season 4-0 on the singles court and recorded 13 straight wins from the beginning of March until the end of April.
The depth of the Bears continues, as they are joined this year by two talented freshmen: Claire Ilcinkas and Bojana Bobusic. Ilcinkas, a native of Paris, France, is an all-court player who is able to take a variety of shots. She recorded a 6-1 doubles record with Ravelojaona and was previously a member of the French National Team. Bobusic, who joins the Bears from Perth, Australia, finished the fall season with an 8-3 singles record and advanced to the doubles finals of the Saint Mary's Invitational in October with Ilcinkas. The coaching staff credits her as an outstanding doubles player.
Entering the spring season with a No. 17 national ranking, the Bears have already been selected as one of 16 teams to participate in the ITA National Team Indoors and hope to build on their solid fall season.
"I think this team has the potential to finish in the top-10 and our program goal is to win a national championship," Brogan said. "Different people will step into different roles at different times this year; we have the talent and hard work."