Leading, 4-1, in the third set against Georgia’s Chelsey Gullickson, top-ranked Jana Juricova looked poised to carry the Cal women’s tennis team into the next round in the NCAA tournament.
With the match locked at 3-3, Juricova was the perfect player for the Bears at a time like this.
However, Gullickson proved too much for Juricova, as she muscled together a five-point comeback to wrap up the final set. In addition to ending Juricova’s perfect singles season, Gullickson’s win on Friday clinched the eighth-seeded Bulldogs a 4-3 victory over Cal in the round of 16.
For the second consecutive year, the Bears (18-7) have failed to advance to the NCAA quarterfinals after falling to Georgia at the Taube Family Tennis Center in Stanford, Ca.
Cal started the tournament in strong fashion, sweeping Boston University, 4-0, and defeating No. 18 USC in an easy 4-1 victory in the first two rounds. After two runs to the championship match in 2008 and 2009, the Bears were eager to move past beyond the disappointing 2010 campaign, when they lost to then No. 6 Notre Dame in the third round.
Like Cal, Georgia was thirsty to look beyond their disappointing performance in the NCAA tournament last year. After reaching the Final Four in 2009, the Bulldogs finished an underperforming season with an early exit from the NCAAs after losing to Clemson in the second round.
Cal got off to a shaky start in Friday’s match, dropping the doubles point to Georgia. The team’s duos at court No. 2 and No. 3 were quickly defeated by their Bulldog counterparts, 8-2, and 8-3, respectively. Even when the singles began, the prognosis for Cal was bleak, as freshman Anett Schutting lost to the Bulldogs’ Maho Kowase, 6-1, 6-2.
But after falling behind, 2-0, early in singles play, the Bears showed life as the other five courts began to tilt their way. Annie Goransson, Mari Andersson, and Marina Cossou won their matches in succession, giving Cal a 3-2 edge.
However, the advantage soon turned to a 3-3 tie after Bulldogs’ freshman Kate Fuller defeated sophomore Tayler Davis in a three-set grind, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.
Friday’s front court duel between Juricova and Gullickson was not their first encounter against each other. The two junior stars have competed four times against each other — most famously in the 2010 NCAA singles championship match. In that May 31 showdown, the 12th-ranked Gullickson pulled off a two-set upset of Juricova, 6-3, 7-6 (7).
Although the Bulldogs advanced to the quarterfinals, their run for the title was short-lived. Georgia was swept by top-seeded Stanford, 4-0, Sunday afternoon.
Seung Y. Lee covers women’s tennis.