Tennis is equally a team game as it is an individual battle — while singles matches determine the majority of the points, it takes not one, but at least three, individual wins in order to clinch a team victory, regardless of what happens in doubles play.
For Cal women’s tennis (8-6), this weekend featured both extremes of a blowout result. On Friday, the Bears put together a 6-1 triumph over Arizona; Saturday’s 4-0 defeat to Arizona State, however, was the squad’s first shutout loss of the season.
What a difference a day can make.
“We played one game of good doubles, and one day of not-so-good doubles, but I think we’ve figured out who the teams are,” said head coach Amanda Augustus. “Now it’s just a matter of executing.”
Nearly two weeks removed from its most recent competition, the Bears entered their showdown with the Wildcats playing arguably their best tennis of the season.
Behind the play of freshman Vivian Glozman, Anna Bright and Julia Rosenqvist, Cal entered the desert as the winner in three of its past four matches.
That winning swagger translated well in Tucson, where the prowess of the young Bears took charge early against Arizona’s top hitters.
Things started off with Rosenqvist and junior Olivia Hauger clinching the all-too-important doubles point — an area that the coaching staff has sought to improve upon throughout conference play.
As the No. 52 pairing in the country, Rosenqvist and Hauger took care of business against Arizona senior Devin Chypyha and junior Camila Wesbrooks, 6-2.
Despite owning an Pac-12 record of 0-3 heading into the match, the Wildcats didn’t make things easy on the Bears.
Arizona junior Sophia Thomas defeated Cal freshman Hana Mraz to tie the score, 1-1, and keep things interesting.
That’s when Cal junior Maria Smith stepped up to carry the load when it mattered most, following up Rosenqvist and Glozman’s wins with a match-clinching victory over Arizona sophomore Marie Van Aelst, 6-2, 6-4.
While opposing teams continue to focus on the Bears’ freshmen core, it’s easy to overlook the improvements in leadership and play that Hauger and Smith have exemplified this spring.
“We’ve had a lot of matches where when we’ve had everyone out on the court — we’ve been successful — so I think our biggest goal is to make sure that’s happening every match this month,” Augustus said.
For all the success the Bears had against the Wildcats, Saturday’s venture to Tempe got off to a sluggish start.
After a strong showing just one day prior, Hauger and Rosenqvist met their match in the form of the No. 48 pairing of sophomore Ilze Hattingh and freshman Lauryn John-Baptiste.
With a 6-2 win early in the day, John-Baptiste carried her No. 56 singles ranking into a showdown against No. 36 Rosenqvist, a court-one match that fell the Sun Devils’ way, 6-2, 7-5.
When it was all said and done, Cal’s lineup, identical to the one that had dismantled Arizona, succumbed, 4-0, to conclude an otherwise successful month of March.
The road to postseason play becomes slightly smoother in the coming weeks, as the Bears host Sacramento State and Oregon this Thursday and Friday, respectively. But regardless of whether a postseason berth is within striking distance for both the team and individual players, the time is now to put the pedal to the metal.