Experienced Cal Tunes Up at Winter Invitational

Photo: Cal's junior Jana Juricova, one of the best singles players in the nation, takes the court this weekend for the Cal Winter Invitational.
Chris McDermut/File
Cal's junior Jana Juricova, one of the best singles players in the nation, takes the court this weekend for the Cal Winter Invitational.

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The anticipation for the first competitive match of the spring is always the same for the Cal women's tennis team, whether it is in the sunlit courts of Hawaii or in the friendly confines of the Hellman Tennis Center.

Last year, the Bears ended their winter layover with a dual match against the Rainbow Wahine. This season, the team kicks off the season by hosting the Cal Winter Invitational - a four-team round-robin tournament that runs Friday through Sunday.

"I think we have a fairly experienced group, and this year we've been training at home," coach Amanda Augustus said. "I think we're just excited to get started."

Over the course of the tournament - singles matches commence at 10 a.m. and again at 2 p.m. while doubles matches begin at noon - Cal will face St. Mary's, Cal Poly and Fresno State.

As an individual tournament, the outcome of each match will not affect the Bears' standing in the Pac-10. Augustus will be using the weekend's matches to assess the level of her team at the start of the season.

"A majority of the group has quite a bit of experience and they had a lot of good fall results, so I think it'll be a good opportunity to get three days of matches in," Augustus said. "That will give us a starting place for the stuff we need to work on going forward."

For Augustus, it begins with organizing her team. The invitational will help the fourth-year coach initiate the process of finalizing the lineups for the rest of the season.

"It's so early in the season. I think that's something probably over the next month or month and a half we'll be looking at," she said. "I think we'll just have to see who's most effective where."

Augustus will be focusing on the performances of her doubles lineup since the three teams visiting Berkeley are especially strong in doubles play.

In particular, the coach said Alex Poorta and Catherine Isip of the Gaels and Alexa Lee and Amy Markhoff of the Mustangs will provide some tough competition coming out of the break.

While neither of those duos are in the ITA's top 25, Cal has the No. 5 tandem of senior Mari Andersson and junior Jana Juricova, who look to carry over the momentum of their 13-2 performance in the fall.

For the Bears, the next three days represent valuable preparation not only for the beginning of dual play during the ITA Kickoff the following weekend, but also for matches against the rest of the Pac-10.

Although the team's short-term objective is to acclimate to the first competitive matches of the spring, it already has a more ambitious - but not unattainable - season-long aspiration in mind.

"Our goal is not only for the team to qualify for the NCAAs but to get as many girls into the NCAA singles and doubles championships," Augustus said.


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