Trio of Bears represent Cal women’s tennis at NCAA Singles Championship

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Nicholas Chun/File

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In Fall 2017, freshman Anna Bright entered the Cal women’s tennis program as one of head coach Amanda Augustus’ most prized recruits in recent memory.

Several months after that, freshman Julia Rosenqvist set foot into the Hellman Tennis Complex for her first practice as a Bear — the new face in town among a group that had already been together for a full fall season.

It didn’t take long for both to be considered “cream of the crop.”

The pair of freshman standouts will be joined by junior Olivia Hauger at this year’s NCAA singles championships beginning this Wednesday at Wake Forest. The trio of Bears earned at-large bids to the event earlier this month, but the rest of the squad was left on the outside looking in for the team competition.

While Cal watches as rival No. 15 Stanford takes on No. 1 Vanderbilt in the team championship event on Tuesday, it will also have its eye set across the country cheering on its top three players, all of whom will be making their first appearances in the singles tournament.

A source of fascination from the start of her first match, Rosenqvist settled into the court one role, capping off her first four months in blue and gold with a Pac-12 First Team selection. Four of her 13 singles wins came against top-75 competition, including an upset of then-No. 8 Ena Shibahara of UCLA on March 10. With a team-leading 35 singles wins across the fall and spring seasons, Bright earned a Pac-12 Second Team nomination.

From making her presence felt on court two with an emphatic victory scream to vocally encouraging her teammates from the sidelines, Bright is a natural at generating positive energy for herself and those around her.

That leaves Hauger — the original star whose leadership and experience have earned her a shot at an individual accolade to add to her growing list of awards and achievements. She faces the last competition of her penultimate season red-hot, garnering a victory in nine of her past 10 completed matches.

On courts three and four, Hauger and fellow junior Maria Smith were sandwiched in between their freshman teammates throughout the singles season but were viewed from both sides as the unspoken leaders of the team.

Despite the seasonlong absence of senior All-American Karla Popovic, the Bears fought valiantly to the tune of an 11-9 overall record, including a 6-4 Pac-12 showing. At home, Cal finished the spring with nine wins in 12 dual matches, including 7-0 sweeps over conference foes USC and Utah.

The singles tournament will officially feature 64 players competing head to head across six days of intense matches. In last year’s bout, Cal was represented by Popovic and current undergraduate student assistant coach Maegan Manasse. The former reached the event’s round of 16 before bowing out against North Carolina’s Sara Daavettila.

Josh Yuen covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @joshcal2020

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