Cal Hopes to Show No Sympathy For Devils in Arizona Trip

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With the season halfway over, the No. 7 Cal women's tennis team is getting into the difficult stretch of its satanic schedule.

Perhaps the challenge for the Bears was the work of the devil.

Cal (11-2) is flying down to Arizona this weekend to play No. 5 Duke today at 1:30 p.m. and Arizona State on Saturday at noon. Both matches will be held at the ASU Whiteman Tennis Center in Tempe, Ariz.

The Bears are playing their third top-five team this season; they beat then-No. 4 UCLA early last month but fell to No. 2 Stanford last Saturday.

The Blue Devils (10-2), who defeated the Bears to claim their first NCAA title in 2009, were the semifinalists in the ITA Team Indoor Championship three weeks ago. The Sun Devils (8-2), on the other hand, have slipped in the rankings the past few years, and currently hang on the outskirts of the top-25 rankings, waiting for a chance to creep back in.

Although this devilish duo could wreak havoc to the Bears' record and ranking, coach Amanda Augustus is more focused about the bigger picture than the current standings.

"I personally believe the more tough matches you play, the better you are going to get," she said. "It's learning how to win those tough matches that is going to prepare for the NCAA tournament in May."

For the Bears, this weekend should provide a bevy of high-talented competition. Both Duke and Arizona State are stacked with top-20 players on the front courts and enough depth for their coaches to fiddle their lineups against Cal.

No. 9 Reka Zsilinszka and No. 17 Kelcy McKenna are the key players for Duke and Arizona State, respectively. Zsilinszka, the 2009 NCAA Tournament MVP, defeated Mari Andersson in that title match to help the Blue Devils win the championship. McKenna, a 2009 All-American, has played Cal many times during her four-year career. The Bears' All-American, No. 4 Jana Juricova, is expected to play against both - she already defeated McKenna twice two years ago.

Even with the squads' undeniable talent, they are not without weaknesses: Cal is looking to exploit Duke's struggles in the doubles.

Last month the Blue Devils had a slump of five consecutive matches in which they lost the doubles point. That stretch resulted in a 3-2 record. On the other hand, the Bears has been solid in its doubles play this season, losing only to the Cardinal and No. 13 Northwestern.

Duke's struggles in doubles could be a great boon for Cal. If the Bears win the doubles point, it provides them a comfortable lead coming into the singles matches. Such comforts have been the chief difference in matches throughout this season - Cal has won every match after winning the doubles point.


Seung Y. Lee covers women's tennis. Contact him at [email protected]

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