Cal Can Topple Sun Devils From Pac-10 Heights This Afternoon

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With five home matches left to close out the season, the No. 8 Cal women's tennis team has an advantage in trying to bring down some of the top teams in the Pac-10.

Today, the Bears host No. 21 Arizona State at 1:30 p.m., in an attempt to remove the Sun Devils from their first-place tie with No. 7 USC in the conference.

Tomorrow, Cal faces Arizona at noon. Both matches will be held at the Hellman Tennis Complex.

No. 25 sophomore Marina Cossou still has not been able to get back into singles play due to a foot injury that she suffered five weeks ago, though she recently started playing doubles matches again with senior Claire Ilcinkas. The duo is ranked No. 20 in the nation.

"It is really nice to be playing together again with Marina," Ilcinkas said. "We haven't played that well yet but we are still trying to find how to play well together. She has been out so we lost some mechanisms that we need to find again."

Cossou does not know if she will be able to participate in singles matches against Arizona State or the Wildcats.

"I try to move more in practice every day and increase the quantity day after day," Cossou said. "I work a lot in doubles and on overhead volleys. I don't know if this weekend will be too early or not to play singles. I have to play some sets at practice to see how I feel."

While Cossou has been out, freshman Jana Juricova has covered her top-court spot and is now ranked No. 10 in singles. Third-ranked Arizona State sophomore Kelcy McKenna's only loss this season came at the hands of Juricova on March 15.

And although that marquee victory for Juricova helped the Bears (12-4, 3-1 in the Pac-10) defeat the Sun Devils (10-4, 3-0) in the teams' last meeting, Saturday's match is the one that affects Pac-10 standings.

"Arizona State will be a tough match for sure," Cal coach Amanda Augustus said. "This is a good opportunity to see if we're still improving because we've already played them once. It's all about finding the rhythm and coming out completely warmed up and ready."

Practice this week consisted of learning how to apply full-force competition from beginning to end, including getting off to the right start on the Bears' faster home courts.

"We just play lots of points in doubles and do specific drills where we have to communicate a lot," Ilcinkas said. "We all have to show them how intense we are from the first point of the doubles to the last point of the singles. If we have great spirit and high energy then we should be fine."

Augustus, meanwhile, stressed the importance of this weekend in terms of conference implications.

"I am pretty happy with how we've been doing so far, and we are still in the hunt for the Pac-10 title," Augustus said. "We want to really win both matches this weekend."


Contact Lauren Bachelis at [email protected]

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