It has been said that failure is one of the steps to success. The same could be said for the Bears in their last two matches. The Bears slumped to a defeat against USC but were able to improve their game and defeat UCLA, the defending NCAA champions, on Saturday.
The Bears went into these matchups with a record of 5-1, while USC came with a record of 8-1 and UCLA with a record of 7-1.
Cal started positively against the Trojans and was able to win the doubles point. Cal’s eighth-ranked pair of sophomores Maegan Manasse and Denise Starr beat USC’s 15th-ranked pair of Giuliana Olmos and Zoe Scandalis, 8-4, and the 16th-ranked pair of senior Zsofi Susanyi and junior Klara Fabikova defeated Madison Westby and Gabby Smith of USC to clinch the doubles point.
In the singles matches, however, the Bears were unable to carry their momentum and lost the overall match. No. 1 Manasse’s penchant for finishing rallies early proved to be costly, as she committed a lot of unforced errors, which led to a win for USC’s Olmos. Manasse won the first set but lost control of the game and lost, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3. No. 59 Starr and No. 28 Karla Popovic, a freshman, emerged victorious against Gabby Smith and Westby, respectively. But No. 20 Susanyi’s loss to Scandalis, 3-6, 6-2, 6-0, and No. 34 Fabikova’s loss to Sabrina Santamaria led to Cal’s overall defeat.
The match was characterized by the Bears’ inability to build on a good start. In spite of gaining first-set leads, the players conceded the remaining sets.
“We got off to a really good start but couldn’t adjust to their (USC’s) mid-game adjustments,” said head coach Amanda Augustus.
The match against UCLA was the complete opposite of the match against USC. Surprisingly, Cal did not start well and lost the doubles point. The team of Susanyi and Fabikova fell to the Bruins pair of Robin Anderson and Chanelle Van Nguyen, 8-6, and the pair of junior Lynn Chi and Popovic lost against Terri Fleming and Kristin Wiley, 8-7(6), in spite of leading 7-4 at one point.
The Bruins also started well in the singles, as Van Nguyen won the first set against Manasse. Starr, however, played a fantastic game again as she defeated No. 101 Kaitlyn Ray, 6-1, 6-3. Starr utilized her height and strong groundstrokes to move the ball around the court and outfox her opponent.
Popovic, too, looked in top form in her 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 win against Fleming, with her forehand topspin proving to be Fleming’s Achilles heel. Fabikova defended her game well with some effective backhand slices and finished with her powerful strokes. She won against No. 31 Kyle McPhillips, 6-1, 4-6, 6-0, and tied the overall score at 3-3. Manasse, who was down in the second set by 5-4, channeled her inner Kim Clijsters and clawed back to win the match 3-6, 7-5, 6-1. The unforced errors, which led to Manasse’s loss against USC, were absent in the last two sets, and she lifted Cal to an overall 4-3 win. Susanyi lost to Catherine Harrison, and senior Cecilia Estlander was defeated by Wiley.
“I let her control the points a little too much,” Manasse said. “Once I got my head straight, then I just kept the same point, working the point, looking to come in when I could. Keeping that going the whole time was really key.”
Cal’s perseverance and tenacity to fight for the win was there for every member of the audience to see.
“Our energy against USC dipped in the middle,” Starr said. “Today, we came out really strong in the singles and maintained that all the way through.”
Devang Prasad covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].