The UC Davis women’s tennis team was not eased into the 2012-13 campaign.
Instead the Aggies faced some of the best players in Division I during three fall tournaments — an obstacle the locals are happy to be past.
And, after the tough fall schedule, UCD is poised for a repeat of last year’s unexpected second-place finish in the Big West Conference.
The spring portion of the Aggie schedule begins this weekend with three matches in Arizona. Starting Friday, the locals will play for three straight days ending with a Sunday matchup against Arizona State, a squad that blanked UCD, 7-0, last season.
Aggie coach Bill Maze’s attitude toward that rematch mirrors his thoughts for the entire upcoming campaign.
“Expect nothing, be ready for everything,” said Maze, who has been at the UCD helm for 17 seasons. “I like to go in with an open mind.”
In wrapping up their fall schedule on Oct. 19 at the Northwest Regional in Stanford, eight Aggie women won their first-round consolation matches. The local duo of Megan Heneghan and Layla Sanders even advanced to the Round of 16 by besting a Pac-12 doubles squad.
Preseason began in Berkeley on Sept. 28 with the Cal Nike Invitational. There, Sanders had a strong showing, posting a victory in the Blue ITA Singles consolation final over an opponent from St. Mary’s.
Action continued Oct. 12 as UCD traveled to the St. Mary’s Invitational in Moraga. At the tournament, junior Melissa Kobayakawa made a strong Aggie debut by winning the ITA Blue Singles division.
“We ended up getting some good results, and some not so great,” Maze said. “The attitude and efforts we saw were top-notch, which is what we look for.”
In the aftermath of the individual-focused preseason tournaments is an evaluation of UCD’s roster, he added. Heneghan, who paired with Sanders in the Northwest Regional, sits atop the Aggie pack at No. 1 in singles.
Senior Lauren Curry also is vying for that position after posting the team’s best record in Big West play last season. She said the fall events helped her — and many of her peers — gauge their own strengths and weaknesses.
“We all had specific goals in mind for each tournament,” Curry said. “As a whole, the team did really well. Everybody had some good wins and competed hard.
“Personally, I focused a lot on trying to play more aggressive by coming in to the net more. Just getting more competition under my belt is always helpful, and it’s also nice to see who the new players are — to compete better against them.”
After three months without competition, the first spring test is Friday at Northern Arizona. The Aggies meet University of Arizona on Saturday before the Sunday matchup with the Sun Devils.
“We are excited about it; especially getting some of that nice, hot weather,” Curry said. “It’s a good kick off to the season. We’ll play some tough teams, but it will show us where we stand.”
Once the harsh Arizona sun has finished scorching the local women; it’s out of the frying pan into the fire with an Jan. 31 match at Stanford.
“There’s no easy matches ahead,” Curry said. “But we have the drive, the passion and the skills to compete with any of these top teams.”
— Reach Brett Johnson at [email protected] or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett