Cal women’s tennis coach Amanda Augustus has waited 18 years for this moment. For Cal faithful, the wait has been even longer.
On Saturday, the No. 10 Cal women’s tennis team upset No. 5 Stanford, 6-1. The win was Cal’s first in Palo Alto since Augustus played for the Bears as a senior in 1999, but this time around the victory meant much more. Cal’s win secured the Pac-12 crown for the Bears (18-4, 10-0) for the first time in program history.
Prior to that, the Bears had shared a Pac-10 title in 1987, when the conference was split between north and south. But since then, the Bears have fallen short each year — often to the Cardinal (16-2, 8-2) — until now.
“To see this team make history today down at Stanford, I’m just really proud of them,” Augustus said.
After the Bears clinched the doubles point, Stanford tied the match up when Kristie Ahn — the No. 4 singles player in the country — topped freshman Denise Starr in two quick sets on the top court.
Cal responded with wins from Klara Fabikova and Anett Schutting, who each took their matches in two quick sets. With the overall match at 3-1, Cal needed just one last point to clinch its first-ever Pac-12 title.
But getting that last point didn’t look so easy. Lynn Chi, Maegan Manasse and Zsofi Susanyi had all lost in the first set of their matches. Just one of them needed to rally to secure the match for Cal. In the end, all three did, winning their matches in three sets, two of which featured tiebreakers.
Manasse and Chi finished first, with the two racing to clinch the match toward the end. Manasse scored the winning point just before Chi could, and the players rushed her court to surround the freshman.
“This was one of our goals,” Augustus said. “I mean, we’re not done yet. But we need to pause and celebrate this.”
The celebration had begun, but the match was not over. Chi quickly finished Taylor Davidson, leaving just Susanyi left fighting. Susanyi took the final point for the Bears when she beat Krista Hardebeck on 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4 on court No. 2.
The 6-1 win comes in stark contrast to the 5-2 loss Stanford handed Cal earlier this year.
“I started crying after I finished my own match,” Susanyi said. “I don’t even think I can describe it.”
The win gives Cal an automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament, though it would have made it anyway based on the team’s national ranking. Because Stanford has so many highly ranked singles players, this win will no doubt bolster not only the Bears’ team ranking but also the rankings of the individual players on the roster as well.
The win was such a new feeling that the Cal players didn’t know how to deal with it. Right now, the plan is for a few days of well-earned rest before the Bears continue into the postseason.
“We were joking about getting a giant cake,” Susanyi said. “But we’re staying focused on what is coming up next. Just one step at a time, that’s what makes this team great.”