After a landmark upset and a disappointing loss, the No. 10 Cal women’s tennis team remains in the hunt for a portion of the inaugural Pac-12 championship. The Bears gave top-ranked UCLA its first loss of the season Friday in a 4-3 barnburner before falling to No. 4 USC the following day by the same score.
Despite the loss Saturday, the Bears remain tied at the top of the Pac-12. No. 6 Stanford scored a win over the Trojans Friday before being handed their first loss by UCLA the next day, leaving all four teams with one loss in conference play with only one match remaining. Cal (16-5, 8-1 in the Pac-12) will travel south to face the Cardinal next Saturday with a portion of the conference crown on the line.
Friday’s win over UCLA at the Hellman Tennis Complex rejiggered the national landscape, as the Bears made a convincing claim for Pac-12 supremacy. Junior Annie Goransson outlasted UCLA’s Chanelle Van Nguyen in a grueling three-set match; after Van Nguyen netted a forehand to give Cal the victory, Goransson’s teammates mobbed her at midcourt.
Eighteen hours after celebrating a historic win, the Bears could not overcome USC’s deep singles lineup. Cal fans were content with a 2-0 lead after watching Jana Juricova rout blue-chip recruit Zoe Scandalis on the top court following two convincing doubles victories.
Yet farther from the grandstand, the Trojans (19-3, 8-1) showcased their stable of talent. USC’s Sabrina Santamaria dominated throughout a straight-set victory over Anett Schutting, netting the visitors their first point.
Whereas Zsofi Susanyi had pulled out a momentous victory on the second court Friday, she couldn’t muster the strength to repeat, falling to Danielle Lao in straight sets. The match was critical for the Bears, as Susanyi seemed in position to force a third set and seize the momentum, yet Lao continually won points after long rallies.
Susanyi’s loss was in the midst of an eight-minute stretch in which USC put the finishing touches on three matches, guaranteeing the Trojans the victory. The genial Berkeley crowd seemed blindsided by the sudden turn of events, sullying a picturesque spring day.
“This team plays different game styles, and we didn’t make enough adjustments,” said Cal coach Amanda Augustus.
Although a win over USC would have guaranteed Cal at least a share of the conference title, the team greatly benefited from the results an hour south in Palo Alto. The Cardinal, generally regarded as a better team than their No. 6 ranking would indicate, snapped a 13-year, 157-match regular season home winning streak with their 5-2 loss to UCLA Saturday.
The weekend leaves the four squads in the hunt all with one conference loss, providing little of the clarity on the regional or national scale that was hoped for. The Los Angeles rivals will face off Friday for half of the conference championship, while Cal and Stanford will do battle the next day for the remaining portion.