And so ends the Jana Juricova era for the Cal women’s tennis team.
The senior still has the singles and doubles tournaments coming up this week, but winning a team title was the one box still unchecked for the former singles and doubles champion. The ninth-seeded Bears advanced farther than in the previous two years but were unable to conjure up another upset of UCLA on Saturday, falling 4-1 in the NCAA Championship quarterfinals.
“We worked really hard the whole year,” Juricova said. “In the end, there’s nothing more important than working hard. That’s all you can do.”
The No. 1 seed Bruins’ balanced lineup and depth at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga., won out despite the strength of Cal’s top two players — Juricova and Zsofi Susanyi.
The No. 8 tandem was winning 7-5, ready to finish off UCLA’s No. 6 pair of Robin Anderson and Skylar Morton when the match was stopped. The Bruins’ other two doubles team had won, earning them the initial point.
“It’s pretty big, big momentum shift,” said Cal coach Amanda Augustus. “It’s tough to win a match against UCLA without the doubles point … You have to work twice as hard to come back.”
Susanyi made quick work of McCall Jones in singles with a 6-2, 6-1 win. Juricova was one game away from upsetting Anderson, but once again, the senior’s match ended prematurely, as UCLA players won straight-set victories on three of the four bottom courts.
Some might say Juricova’s Cal career ended prematurely too. The Bears (20-7) split their two regular season matches with UCLA (25-2), but the loss occurred on the road on Feb. 24 while Juricova was out with an injury. With Juricova back in the lineup on April 13, Cal returned the favor with a 4-3 victory in Berkeley.
Just two months later, with nearly identical individual matchups, a Bears squad brimming with confidence could not come up with another upset over the nation’s top-ranked team.
Cal rode a balanced lineup to open the tournament with three straight 4-0 decisions. But the Bears’ depth did not measure up against the Bruins’. UCLA easily won on courts three, four and six. On court No. 5, Annie Goransson was one game away from losing when the match was called.
“You can’t expect against the top seed, top team to win at every position,” Augustus said. “Other players have to give you time to win your match. We didn’t push them on those other courts to three sets like we needed to.”
The Bruins return to the court on Monday to take on USC in the national semifinal. Meanwhile, Juricova and qualifying Bears must wait until the individual championships begin on Wednesday.
Juricova, the reigning singles champion, won the doubles title as a freshman in 2009 with then-sophomore Mari Andersson. In her senior season, Juricova has had tremendous success partnered with Susanyi, herself a freshman. Perhaps Juricova has one run left in store for another singles or doubles title — or perhaps the individual championships will be the defining moment in the first year of the Zsofi Susanyi era.
“Of course that’s the hope,” Augustus said. “Jana has paved the way in a lot of ways for future Golden Bears.”
Added Juricova, “I want to win singles and doubles. It’d be a great way to end my career at Cal.”