Victory at last.
After four years of consecutive losses, No. 9 Cal was finally able to topple its rival, No. 12 Stanford, 4-3, on Friday at the Hellman Tennis Complex in Berkeley.
After USC won its match against UCLA, the Cal-Stanford match was no longer for the conference title but instead for second place. The win secures Cal (15-5, 9-1 in the Pac-12) the runner-up finish in the conference, but more importantly, the match was the first time that any of the players on the Cal squad were able to beat the Cardinal (16-4, 8-2).
From the beginning of the match, the walls of Hellman reverberated with desire — both teams wanted it badly.
“I’m a very emotional person, and as expected, I cried a little bit in that opening (senior day) ceremony,” said senior Tayler Davis. “But I knew I was going to do everything I could to win this match because it meant that much to me.”
Stanford was the faster, stronger team in doubles and won on the top two doubles courts to take an early 1-0 lead.
But in singles, Cal began to climb back. The Bears soon found themselves in a 2-2 tie with three courts left in play after Lynn Chi and Zsofi Susanyi won their matches on courts No. 3 and No. 4, respectively. But Anett Schutting lost her match on the top court, knotting up the two Bay Area squads.
With Klara Fabikova pushed into a third set on court No. 2, seniors Davis and Annie Goransson had a chance to clinch the match for the Bears.
After winning a tiebreaker in the first set, Davis won the second set and her match when Stanford’s Ellen Tsay hit a ball into the net.
“I don’t think I could have asked for a better senior day for it to come down to me and Annie,” said Davis, who could not stop smiling after the win. “It was just a great feeling. I don’t think I can really describe it.”
Cal was up 3-2, and Goransson had the opportunity to clinch the match for the Bears against Stanford’s Natalie Dillon. A crowd congregated around the No. 6 court, and the match started to turn in Goransson’s favor.
“I love having a lot of people supporting me and screaming,” Goransson said. “I don’t know what happens, but I love that situation, and I raised my level quite a bit.”
With a crowd behind her, Goransson erased a 4-2 deficit in the second set and soon found herself up 6-5 on match point.
Dillon, off-balance, hit a ball high into the air. It hung in the sky forever before dropping just out of bounds.
The crowd erupted into a cheer as Goransson dropped her racket and her team rushed to embrace her.
Cal clinched its first win over the Cardinal since 2009.
“I just got this happy feeling throughout my entire body,” Goransson said, “and I looked at my teammates who I love so much, and I saw them coming towards me. I’m never going to get that kind of feeling again.”
Riley McAtee covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].