Seeking redemption after a hard-fought regular season loss to rival No. 6 Stanford, the No. 16 Cal women’s tennis team came out hungry in the first ever Pac-12 Championship match. As the two-seed in the tournament, Cal wanted nothing more than to face Stanford one more time.
First, the team would take on a tough Washington side. When the teams met in the regular season, Cal easily took care of business and won 7-0. This time the teams would play at a neutral location, but this didn’t seem to have too big of an effect on the Bears as they came out and dominated. The team easily captured the doubles point and then went on to win behind routine singles performances by No. 13 junior Karla Popovic, No. 124 senior Denise Starr and wins by sophomore Maria Smith and No. 38 senior Maegan Manasse.
After cruising to a relatively easy victory, Cal would then take on the sixth-seed USC. Right off the bat, Cal would deliver a dominating performance in doubles that head Coach Amanda Augustus has been asking for all season. All three teams were aggressive and came out firing. The Bears would clinch the doubles point behind Manasse and Jansen’s performance.
In singles, the Bears couldn’t replicate their play. The Bears got tight and weren’t going for their shots like they had been in doubles. In uncharacteristic fashion, both Manasse and Popovic lost their matches. The Bears would get wins by Starr and Smith but sophomore Olivia Hauger would go on to lose her match. The match was in the hands of was all up to graduate transfer Maya Jansen, but in her third set, her experience shone through as she outlasted her opponent to clinch the match for the Bears.
Next up, as many expected, was a rematch with the defending national championship Cardinal. Stanford breezed through its first two matches and was playing some of its best tennis all season.
The match started off close in doubles, but the one-seed Cardinal secured the doubles point to take a 1-0 advantage.
In singles, Cal looked to rebound and put some pressure on their rivals. Behind Popovic, the Bears did just that. She won on court two to tie the overall score at one apiece.
On court one and six, Manasse and Smith won their first sets and all of a sudden the Bears looked as if they were going to do something special. However, on courts three and five the Cardinal were too strong and won both matches to take a 3-1 advantage.
The remaining matches were all very close. On all three of the remaining courts, the games were to be decided in the third set. While Hauger on court four and Smith on court six seemed to have regained the advantage in each of their respective matches, court one would be decided first. Manasse couldn’t recreate the magic that she had last week against No. 41 senior Caroline Doyle and she went on to lose in three sets.
And that was that. Stanford won both the regular season and postseason while Cal fell a bit short. At the end of the day, Cal is still a strong team that can cause some damage in the postseason.
The team just ran into a very good Stanford team that has dominated college women’s tennis for a long time. There is nothing to be too upset about. Up next for the Bears is the NCAA Tournament where the team will be looking to cause some damage.
Praveen Kuruppu covers women’s tennis. Contact him at