Moments after she clinched the overall match, Maegan Manasse stormed the court with water balloons in hand, ready to drench the team. Shrill screams echoed from Hellman Tennis Complex as the rest of the Cal women’s tennis team pelted each other with dozens of water balloons. All head coach Amanda Augustus could was run from one end of the court to the other as her players chased her, balloons in hand.
“We’ve been doing this almost every year — whenever we get to the round of 16,” said Anett Schutting. “I didn’t know, but it was a nice surprise.”
No. 6 Cal (20-4) advanced to the third round of the NCAA championships with 4-0 victories over FDU (13-5) and No. 24 Pepperdine (19-5) in the first and second rounds Friday and Saturday, respectively.
The Bears had little trouble topping FDU in the first round, winning every set on their way to a 4-0 sweep. The duo of Schutting and Lynn Chi easily took its match on court one, 8-1, as Klara Fabikova and Zsofi Susanyi didn’t surrender a single game, winning, 8-0, on court three.
Singles proceeded similarly to doubles with Chi putting another point on the board for Cal with a 6-1, 6-1 victory on court four. Manasse followed Chi’s point with a, 6-1, 6-2, win on court five as Denise Starr put the final nail in the coffin with a, 6-1, 6-1, victory on court one.
The following day, the Bears set the tone with a strong doubles showing to open the match. The pairing of Manasse and Starr was able to defeat Michaela Capannolo and Yuki Chiang, 8-2, to get the ball rolling. Schutting and Chi then clinched the doubles point with an 8-3 win on the top doubles court against Lorraine Guillermo and Apichaya Runglerdkriangkrai.
“How strong we came out in the doubles set the tone for us,” Augustus said. “We didn’t let Pepperdine get any momentum.”
Cal, however, had a much tougher time in singles play. Despite the score, Pepperdine gave the Bears a run for their money — especially on the top three courts. Starr and Susanyi surrendered their first sets but were leading in their second sets before the matches were abandoned. Starr was hitting unforced errors leading to her losing the first set before cleaning up her game in the second. On one return, Starr and Guillermo traded their best shots before the latter had to moonball a shot high into the air leading to an overhead smash that almost cleared the fence.
Once again, Chi was the first singles point on the board for the Bears, as she finished off Capannolo, 6-1, 6-2, on court four. Chi noticed early on that Capannolo liked to play the angles on corner shots. In response, Chi started to hit deep balls toward the middle, not allowing her opponent to get into the match.
“When I got ahead a little bit, I got more confident and went for my shots,” Chi said.
Shortly after Chi’s victory, Fabikova and Manasse proceeded to win their matches to book Cal’s ticket to Athens, Georgia, where it will play rival Stanford in the third round of the NCAA championship.
“It speaks to their improvement and how hard they’ve been working,” Augustus said. “It bodes well for the future. It was just a really good team effort.”
Winston Cho covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected]