Sometimes it seems that it never rains in Southern California. But as the Cal women’s tennis team learned, when it does, it pours. Man, it pours.
The high profile matchup of No. 8 Cal and No. 3 Pepperdine looked to be an early season highlight for fans of women’s tennis, but the normally idyllic Malibu, California, conditions refused to hold. As a result, the Bears were forced to settle for only the second match they had scheduled: a breezy 7-0 win over San Diego State.
But there could be a heavy penalty to pay for not being able to face the toughest opponent possible. The ITA National Indoor Championships begin next weekend, and Cal will be looking to defend its title without having had its best warmup opportunity. Very few teams’ dual match schedules have heated up by this point, so the Bears won’t be in a particularly strange spot, but they’ll have less of an idea of themselves than they were expecting to have.
“We would have liked to get two matches in (this weekend), but you can’t really control the weather,” said Cal head coach Amanda Augustus. “If we had gotten no matches in, that would have been a little different. (Pepperdine) will be at the tournament next week too, so maybe we’ll get a chance to play them there.”
San Diego State was originally slated to be a pleasant palate cleanser for the Bears after they finished up with the Waves in Malibu. When moved up to the main course, however, the Aztecs had absolutely no shot of competing with Cal.
After dropping no sets over the course of nine matches and beating the Aztecs 92-38 on aggregate games, it seems the Bears had no other outlet for the A-game they were originally planning on bringing to Malibu.
Star senior Maegan Manasse, No. 49 in the nation, was originally slated for an exciting matchup with No. 8 Luisa Stefani of Pepperdine. But with that showdown wiped out, she ended up sitting out the singles portion of the dual match.
The replacement sixth singles player for Cal was senior Stephanie Lin, and she came closest to giving San Diego State an elusive point, pulling out a tight 7-5, 7-5 win against Aztec senior Olivia Larsson.
Senior Denise Starr was previously the long-time partner of Manasse, and the team made deep runs into tournaments, usually playing as the Bears’ No. 1 doubles team. But Manasse is now paired up with transfer graduate student Maya Jansen, who has an illustrious history as a doubles player. With Manasse and Jansen at No. 1 and sophomore Olivia Hauger and junior Karla Popovic taking the No. 2 spot, Starr is no down to No. 3, paired with freshman Alexis Nelson. It is a somewhat awkward downward move to make so late in Starr’s career.
“(Starr) is one of our team captains,” Augustus said. “This is where we are now. It’s by no means a function of her doubles play. We just want to put the three best teams out there. Obviously (Popovic) and (Hauger) won a championship in the fall and had a good record. But Starr is confident, and she’s playing really well.”
The picture the Bears have of themselves now is not as clear as they were expecting to have, but after the indoors next weekend, we should all be sure of exactly where they are.