Despite sluggish starts to both of its matches, the Cal women’s tennis team (11-7) salvaged a split in a wild weekend, falling to Washington in Seattle, 5-2, before defeating Washington State in Pullman, 4-3.
Whether by plane, train or automobile, traveling from Washington to Washington State is a journey and a half, especially for Pac-12 squads playing a back-to-back against these conference foes.
Thanks to the nature of tennis scheduling, that trek was on the Bears’ itinerary, in addition to facing the Huskies (14-10) and Cougars (20-5), a pair of teams with a track record of success when playing on their home courts.
To make things even more challenging for the Bears, it was their first time this season playing under a roof.
“This was our first indoor match of the year, and obviously, playing Washington, who hadn’t played an outdoor match, was weird,” said head coach Amanda Augustus. “I think we adjusted and handled it well, which is important going forward.”
Cal didn’t start off strong during Friday’s showdown, however, as the Huskies overcame freshmen Anna Bright and Vivian Glozman’s doubles win to clinch the doubles point, prolonging Cal’s doubles struggles.
The No. 26 duo of Washington senior Miki Kobayashi and freshman Vanessa Wong flashed both veteran leadership and budding talent in its win over the No. 36 pairing of Cal junior Olivia Hauger and freshman Julia Rosenqvist.
That left the outcome up to court three. With the doubles point hanging in the balance, freshman Hana Mraz and junior Maria Smith couldn’t get it done against Husky junior Stacey Fung and sophomore Katarina Kopcalic.
“Every match, we’re having one team having a really good doubles match, but it’s not necessarily the same time having a good match, and we need three teams on the same day playing well,” Augustus said. “Overall, I think we’ve improved on our serve percentage and our return percentage in doubles, which is where you’ve got to start, so now we’re going to try to keep adding from there.”
Sitting in fourth place with one weekend remaining in conference play, the Bears almost certainly won’t get far in the Pac-12 tournament without a fight in doubles. But even after their doubles issues were extended to Saturday’s match in Pullman, their singles play is at an all-time high.
Bright’s rise into the top-50 rankings was on display this weekend, as she followed up her doubles victory with yet another singles victory, rallying past Kobayashi, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.
In her return to her home state, Bellevue native Glozman built upon her own stellar first season, taking down junior Kenadi Hance, 6-2, 6-2. That was all the scoring Cal would get, as Washington’s singles bunch, led by the No. 22 Fung, ran away with a 5-2 win.
As the scene shifted across the state, the story remained the same for the Bears. With its back against the wall once again because of a slow start in doubles, Cal responded with arguably its biggest win of the spring.
“We didn’t play great doubles on Saturday on all three courts, but we really just let that go and were super focused on the singles,” Augustus said.
In a year that has been so focused on the Bears’ young talent, it was Smith and Hauger who sealed the deal.
Smith battled past senior Barbora Michalkova, 6-2, 6-2, before No. 36 Hauger emerged a 6-4, 7-6 (4) winner over sophomore Guzal Yusupova.
With Stanford and its 8-0 Pac-12 record waiting on Friday, the Bears will face not just their nemesis but their toughest challenge of the season.
“It will shape up to be a really good match because I think we match up well and we always have great matches with them at every position,” Augustus said.