Back home in the playoffs

By Michael Zavala

Although the women’s tennis team will be on the road Saturday,
it will also be back home again.

Cal Poly (7-10, 5-3) will be facing UC San Diego at San Diego in
the West Region quarterfinals after missing the playoffs last
season for the first time in five years.

“We’ve been practicing since September to get into this
position,” said head coach Sandy Kriezel. “I’m excited. I’d play
San Diego tomorrow if the opportunity were there.”

The Broncos will not have an easy path through the playoffs.
Should they defeat the Tritons, they would then play undefeated
Brigham Young University-Hawaii, the No. 1 seed in the West
Region.

Getting through UCSD will be a difficult task itself,
considering the Tritons have already defeated Cal Poly twice this
season and are in the midst of a 48-match winning streak against
conference opponents.

But the Broncos are hoping the third time will be the charm.

“We definitely know they’re a strong team, and we know we’re
definitely going to have to be on when we play them,” said freshman
Kaitlin Wooldridge. “There’s no room for error. We need to hit our
shots and be confident.”

That team confidence is something Kriezel has been stressing
since Cal Poly’s regular season ended April 16. She has pointed out
that the team has come a long way from last season, in which it
finished fourth in the conference and yet barely missed qualifying
for Regionals.

She has also stressed that the Broncos made solid strides in
their two matches with the Tritons.

Cal Poly lost at San Diego Feb. 23, 9-0, but was close in the
three doubles matches, forcing two of them into extra points. When
UCSD came to Cal Poly April 16, the Tritons won again, but the
Broncos took the No. 1 doubles match and gave the Tritons hard
fights across the board in singles.

“It’s all about execution out there,” said Kriezel. “These girls
have to walk out on to the court believing they’re as good as San
Diego.”

Near the end of the season, Kriezel found a lineup she was
comfortable with, and she doesn’t plan on making any changes to it
just because it’s playoff time. The only question mark is No. 6
singles, where Kriezel will employ either freshman Michelle Stock
or senior Ellyn Caprara.

Stock has played more at the No. 6 position this season, going
4-7 compared to 1-3 for Caprara. Still, Caprara has an outside shot
of sliding into the No. 6 spot, and she’s ready to play though she
admits to a bit of nervousness.

“It’s hard to play a team you’ve already lost to,” said Caprara.
“There’s no room for anyone to be a little off. There’s no easy
points here or there. You’ve got to do everything right.”

Even with some nerves going into the match, the Broncos should
be as ready as they’re going to be.

The No. 1 doubles team of freshman Jennifer Chow and senior
Jenny Tsai got a solid win against the Tritons’ No. 1 doubles
squad, and with sophomore Mallory Brady out for the April 16 match
with an elbow injury, Chow, Wooldridge and Stock all moved up a
spot in the singles order, gaining solid experience against tougher
opponents and playing close matches with them.

Brady will be back at full strength Saturday for Cal Poly, which
will try to use her return and the experience gained in her absence
to get an early jump on UCSD.

“The pivotal part of the match is doubles,” said Kriezel. “If we
can get out to a small lead after doubles, I think anything goes in
singles, because then they believe that they’re in it. If we get
swept by them, then we’ve really got to dig deep.”

Back home in the playoffs

Brandon Tan/Poly Post

Back home in the playoffs

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