Entering into their round of 16 match against No. 4 Vanderbilt, No. 13 Cal came in ready to fight. The Bears knew that they were heavy underdogs but also knew that if they played well enough, they could pull off an upset. Although the team put in a gritty performance on a hot day in Athens, Georgia, it wasn’t enough, as the team would lose 4-1 and be eliminated from team play.
“I think we played a good Vanderbilt team,” said Cal coach Amanda Augustus. “We knew it was going to be a tough match. I think we put ourselves in the position we wanted to be in; we just didn’t close out. Credit to Vandy, they hung around and they competed.”
Play started off well for the Bears in doubles. On court one, the No. 34 pair of senior Maegan Manasse and graduate transfer Maya Jansen showcased their strong form as they took on the No. 1 duo in the country of redshirt junior Astra Sharma and sophomore Emily Smith, jumping out to a solid start on route to a win on court one.
But shortly after Manasse and Jansen’s doubles win, the duo of senior Denise Starr and sophomore Maria Smith lost on court three, which tied up doubles point.
The pressure of securing doubles point lay on the shoulders of the No. 55 duo of junior Karla Popovic and sophomore Olivia Hauger, but they fell to the Vanderbilt pair of senior Sydney Campbell and freshman Emma Kurtz 7-5.
Vanderbilt had the 1-0 advantage heading into singles play, but Cal fought back valiantly from the deficit.
Jansen struck on court four first in singles to tie the overall match score, but not long after, sophomore Maria Smith and No. 10 Popovic lost on courts six and two, giving the Commodores a 3-1 advantage.
On court one, No. 34 Manasse had pushed No. 4 Sharma to the brink of elimination. After winning the first set, the senior was preparing to play a tiebreaker to decide the second set. Unfortunately, play was suspended as court three decided the match.
Over on court three, the match came to an end when No. 123 Starr lost a tight match to No. 102 freshman Christina Rosca 7-5, 6-1. This would clinch the match for the Commodores and eliminate the Bears.
“I thought we had some good matches on some of the courts, but maybe we didn’t execute our strategy as well as we wanted to,” Augustus said. “I’m really proud; this team fought through a very challenging year.”
While the team’s season may have ended, a handful of athletes have the opportunity to represent Cal in singles and doubles play. Manasse and Popovic will participate in singles while Manasse and Jansen will participate in doubles. Both were selected at an at-large basis.
The Bears are expected to see a shift in their roster composition next season. Cal currently has three seniors on their roster in Manasse, Starr and Stephanie Lin. Rising freshman Anna Bright, one of the nation’s premier high school prospects who earned the title of Florida’s “Miss Tennis,” is expected to join the squad next season.
Praveen Kuruppu covers women’s tennis. Contact him at