3 members of Cal women’s tennis bounced from 1st round at NCAA singles championships

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Nicholas Chun/File

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English scientist William Whewell famously declared that “every failure is a step to success.” Cheesy and to the point, the Cal women’s tennis team has fuel heading into the upcoming year after an abrupt ending to an up-and-down season. It’s a far cry to call the Bears’ past nine months a failure by any means, but it’s safe to say that there are bigger things ahead for this up-and-coming group.

Wednesday afternoon marked the last Cal sighting for the season, when the program’s top three stars battled one final time.

The three Bears — freshman Julia Rosenqvist, freshman Anna Bright and junior Olivia Hauger — were making their debut in the NCAA singles championships at Wake Forest, but they all fell in their first matches to a diverse set of strong opponents.

“There were a lot of big improvements throughout the year, and all three fought really hard today and made our program proud,” said head coach Amanda Augustus.

The eldest Bear, Hauger, received the earliest start time of the bunch, drawing an 8 a.m. pairing with Florida senior Anna Danilina, the No. 18 singles player in the nation. Cal had previously squared off with Danilina in the fall, when Bright drew the assignment of the Gators’ top threat in the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships’ consolation final.

The match was similar to Bright’s match six months prior — the No. 50-ranked Hauger held Danilina at bay during the opening set before conceding, 7-5. Winning that first set proved to provide Danilina a huge mental boost, as the Gator overpowered Hauger, 6-0, to end the junior’s season and extend her own another day.

Danilina would go on to take down Texas sophomore Anna Turati in the second round, earning a spot in the round of 16.

Unlike Hauger, the No. 36 Rosenqvist prevailed in the first set of her afternoon match against Oklahoma State senior Megan McCray, a California native competing in the final tournament of her collegiate career. But McCray’s experience got the best of Rosenqvist down the back stretch of the match, as the Swede’s season ended with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 defeat.

According to Augustus, Rosenqvist and Bright entered the tournament as two of 10 freshman who earned bids to the big dance. Given that Rosenqvist arrived on the collegiate stage just a few months ago, making the tournament and earning a First Team All-Conference nomination puts things into perspective despite the tough break in round one.

As Rosenqvist closed chapter one of her collegiate career, Bright was in the midst of fighting to keep hers alive. Like her teammates, Bright’s opposition came in the form of a senior, and a good one at that — Denver’s Julia O’Loughlin, the 2018 ITA Player of the Year for the mountain region and a five-time winner of Summit League Player of the Week this season alone.

Bright’s match mirrored that of Hauger and was accentuated by a tightly contested opening set, which ultimately fell O’Loughlin’s way, 7-6 (1). After a 6-2 deficit in the second set, Cal’s season concluded with Hauger’s, ending a solid run for a young core that is set to return all of it’s primary stars.

“We’re all really excited to come back together in the fall,” Hauger said. “There were a lot of new faces this season, but we came together and I look forward to playing another season with them.”

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