No. 10 Cal Heads to NCAA Championships

May 16, 2007

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The No. 10 seed California women's tennis team (21-6) will square off against seventh-seed Clemson in the Round of 16 of the NCAA championships on Friday, May 18, at 3 p.m. (PT) in Athens, Ga. The Golden Bears were victorious in last weekend's NCAA regionals, defeating Southeastern Louisiana and No. 18 Arizona State at the Hellman Tennis Center in Berkeley, Calif. The winner of the match between the Bears and the Tigers will face the winner of William and Mary and No. 2 seed Georgia in the second round. Following the team championships, which conclude May 22, the individual championships will run from May 23-28. Cal has three competitors in the individual draws: No. 4 junior Susie Babos, No. 12 senior Zsuzsanna Fodor and No. 22 freshman Nina Henkel. Babos and Fodor will participate in the doubles draw as well as the singles tournament.

This is Clemson's third appearance in the Sweet 16 in the past four years. In their regional, the Tigers swept Coastal Carolina in the first round, 4-0, and then topped Virginia in the second round, 4-1. Clemson, currently ranked sixth in the ITA standings, has a young team with only one senior and five freshmen. One of those freshmen, Ani Mijacika, is currently ranked 27th in the ITA singles rankings. The Tigers other ranked singles player is also a freshman, No. 81 Estefania Balda. In doubles, Mijacika and Federica van Adrichem form the 11th-ranked tandem in the nation. Mijacika has been having a very impressive season. The native of Croatia was just named the ITA Southeast Region Rookie Player of the Year and recently was selected the ACC Freshman of the Year. Mijacika has notched a 25-6 singles record this season and won her 20th dual match against the Cavaliers in the regional finals on Saturday. She posted an 11-0 singles record in the ACC regular season and amassed a 14-match winning streak during the year.

All of the top 16 seeds advanced through last weekend's regionals. Cal is one of four teams from the Pac-10 to advance to the Round of 16. Top-seeded Stanford looks to win its fourth straight national title. The Cardinal will meet No. 16 seed Vanderbilt on Friday. UCLA and USC are the other two Pac-10 schools in the tournament. The Trojans square off against Miami while the Bruins tangle wtih Northwestern. Should USC and Stanford both win on Friday, they will face each other in the quarterfinals on Sunday. UCLA would meet the winner of Florida and Baylor, if it advances. The Bears won't face any of their conference rivals in the tournament unless it reaches the final. Fresno State is the fifth team from the state of California to reach the Sweet 16. The Bulldogs, who beat Cal in the second round of last year's tournament, square off against Georgia Tech on Friday. The winner of that match will meet the winner of North Carolina and Notre Dame.

The Bears earned the right to go to Georiga when they defeated Southeastern Louisiana and No. 18 Arizona State last weekend in the NCAA regionals. Cal swept the Lady Lions, 4-0, and got past the Sun Devils, 4-2. Against SE Louisiana, the Bears won both doubles matches in commanding fashion and carried that momentum into singles, winning three matches in straight sets. The Bears received strong performances on the fourth and fifth courts from juniors Cristina Visico and Stephanie Kusano to clinch the victory. Visico defeated Bonnie Phillips, 6-1, 6-1, and Kusano beat Jana Simurkova, 6-3, 6-1. It was Kusano's win that ended the contest. In both matches, Zsuzsanna Fodor led the way for Cal. She tallied the first singles win in a one-sided contest, knocking off Iva Velkovska, 6-1, 6-0. Against the Sun Devils, Fodor knocked off No. 33 Nadia Abdala, 6-2, 6-2. Susie Babos got the second singles win against ASU, turning in an impressive performance on the top court. She knocked of Sabrina Capannolo, 6-4, 6-1. Nina Henkel sent the Bears to Georgia with a three-set win against Roxanne Clarke, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3.

Cal's last great run in the NCAA Tournament came in 2003, when the Bears advanced to the semifinals. Since 1982, Cal has reached the Final Four five times (1985, 1994, 1999, 2000, 2003). Although the Bears have yet to get passed the semifinals as a team, they have won four NCAA titles in doubles and one in singles. Cal took the doubles crown three straight years from 1998-2000, and added its fourth championship in 2003 when Raquel Kops-Jones and Christina Fusano took top honors.

Three Bears will compete in the NCAA individual singles and doubles tournaments May 23-28 in Athens, Ga., following the completion of the team championships. No. 4 Susie Babos will defend her 2006 NCAA singles championship as the No. 5 seed in this year's tournament. She won the national crown last year as an unseeded player. Babos will be joined by teammates Zsuzsanna Fodor and Nina Henkel, both of whom are ranked in the ITA singles Top 25 (No. 12 Fodor, No. 22 Henkel). Fodor will also be a favorite in the tournament, coming in as the No. 12 seed. In doubles, the pair of Babos and Fodor will represent the Bears, entering as the No. 5 seed. Although the fifth-ranked tandem made a second-round exit in the Pac-10 championships, Babos and Fodor have been ranked in the top five in doubles for the entire season.

Last May, Susie Babos became the first Golden Bear from the women's team to win the NCAA singles title, becoming just the fourth international player to ever win the national singles crown and the first Bear to advance to the NCAA final since Lisa Albano in 1991. In addition, Babos also was the sixth unseeded player to advance to the NCAA final, the sixth sophomore to win the national championship and the 15th Pac-10 NCAA singles champion. She defeated USC's Lindsey Nelson, 6-4, 6-1, in the final. Along the way, Babos upset the 2005 NCAA champ and No. 4 seed Zuzana Zemenova of Baylor, 6-3, 6-4, in the quarterfinals.

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