It was a thriller in Eugene, Oregon. Tied up 3-3 in a Pac-12 match between No. 18 California and Oregon, it all came down to the final match between No. 98 sophomore Olivia Hauger and freshman Julia Eshet. After Hauger won the first set 6-1 and dropped the second set 7-5, the entire match came down to one deciding set.
“It was a tight third set, and I think I had a really good attitude and was ready to compete for the team,” Hauger said. “I have improved my fitness this past year and have focused on being one of the fittest players in the country and being able to outlast my opponents.”
After the third set was tied up at three apiece, Hauger knew that she was almost there. Her improved fitness was paying off as she was still fresh while her opponent was tiring. Sensing the opportunity to finish off the match, she put her foot on the gas pedal and kept attacking. Her patience, hard work and endurance paid off. Hauger delivered the match clinching victory in thrilling fashion to give the Bears the 4-3 road victory.
“Olivia’s been in that situation before,” said coach Amanda Augustus. “I think she has confidence in herself, and her teammates have confidence in her. I think winning close matches like that helps build confidence for herself and the team.”
While the match ended on a high note and most importantly a win for the Bears, the overall play of the team was subpar. In doubles, the teams didn’t come out with the same level of aggression that characterized their mid-week rout of Sacramento State. They were not poaching and were clearly on the defensive. In the end, Cal dropped the doubles point, although the team of Hauger and junior Karla Popovic were leading their match 5-2.
In singles, the team saw it’s play improve slightly. On court two, No. 53 senior Maegan Manasse lost her match as the Bears went down 2-0. Cal would quickly rebound behind strong play from graduate transfer Maya Jansen and senior Denise Starr. After routine straight set victories, Cal was right back in the game. The remaining three matches were all decided in the third set. Unfortunately, things didn’t go the Bears’ way as sophomore Maria Smith ended up losing on court six. On court one, however, No. 9 Popovic showed why she is the highest ranked singles player on the team as she went on to decisively win her third set 6-1. Locked up at three, Hauger took care of business and guaranteed the win for the team.
Although it wasn’t always pretty, Cal was able to win the match and keep pace with Stanford in the Pac-12 standings. Next week, the Bears take on the two Washington schools at home before their ultimate showdown with Stanford. If the Bears want any chance of winning the regular season title, they will have to both stay aggressive and serve more consistently throughout their remaining matches. Overall though, the Bears pushed their winning streak to six games and remain one of the top teams in the country.
Praveen Kuruppu covers women’s tennis. Contact him at