Pac-10 Championships Set Stage for NCAAs

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To kick off postseason play, the No. 8 Cal women's tennis team heads to Ojai, Calif., for the Pac-10 individual championships that start today and end Sunday.

Unlike most tennis matches, this tournament gives the Bears a chance to show off their talent at the individual level and be rewarded for it.

"There is the championship flight and then the invitational flight," coach Amanda Augustus said. "Generally, we get our top four or five in the championship flight. Everyone will get to play singles and doubles, though. This gives them an opportunity to qualify for NCAA singles."

Last year, Claire Ilcinkas triumphed at the Ojai Valley Tennis Club, continued on in NCAA singles and earned All-America status. This year, however, the senior's goals are not as personal.

"My goal is to get ready for the following week, that is the NCAA team," Ilcinkas said. "I would like to play as many singles and doubles matches as I can in order to get ready for regionals."

The team's practice routine looked different this week so the individuals could improve most efficiently. Sophomore Marina Cossou, who recently recovered from a foot injury that sidelined her for several weeks, thinks Cal is well-prepared for the tournament.

"We just had two days of practice before the Pac-10 championship," Cossou said. "We worked mainly on everyone's needs. We also had the chance to hit in the heat for two days and try to get used to it because it's supposed to be hot down there. In addition to single and double drills, we had a lot of feeds."

But while the Bears (17-4, 7-1 in the Pac-10) are an elite team -- ranking second in the conference behind USC -- the competition will by no means be a breeze.

"It will be extremely hard since we have a strong conference and the best players will be there," Cossou said. "There are five matches to win in singles and doubles, which requires playing many matches in a row and keeping physical condition up in every match."

Especially because Cal defeated rival Stanford last weekend, Augustus has high expectations for the team in this individual tournament. She sees this first postseason tournament as a great practice tool for future tournaments.

"I'd like us to come home with a title," Augustus said. "It is fun for us because we can sit back and watch them play and see who wants it. We get to see how we're doing fitness-wise and look ahead to NCAAs."

Looking forward to the NCAA team championships in Texas next weekend, the Bears believe they will not fall without a strong fight.

"My personal job is to use the matches to play better and get used to the hot weather for Texas," Cossou said. "My main goal is to play well and to bring some single and double points to the team in order to win the Pac-10 cup.

"I think that it is a very good test at this period of the year to see where we are and how our condition is."


Contact Lauren Bachelis at [email protected]

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