As the No. 4 Cal women’s tennis team faced its biggest rival, No. 11 Stanford, on Cal Day — a day that celebrates the very essence of UC Berkeley — the team provided another reason for fans to cheer as it blitzed the Cardinal, 5-2.
Cal was coming off an impressive 7-0 win over Sacramento State on Friday, starting the match against the Hornets by taking the doubles point. The team of freshmen Lyann Hoang and Karla Popovic clinched the point by defeating the team of Daria Savchenko and Ana Loaiza Esquivias.
The singles matches saw Cal make quick work of the Hornets, with senior No. 40 Zsofi Susanyi handing her opponent, Anna-Maria Nau, the double bagel in a match that lasted barely 40 minutes. Susanyi’s court coverage and strokes coupled with Nau’s unforced errors resulted in the match going Cal’s way. Subsequent victories from junior No. 24 Klara Fabikova and senior Cecilia Estlander clinched the win for Cal.
Before the Stanford match Saturday, the Bears honored Susanyi and Estlander for Senior Day, their last regular-season home matches.
The match started in typical fashion for Cal, as it produced some great tennis to take the doubles point against the Cardinal. The No. 10 team of Susanyi and Fabikova demolished the No. 2 team of Carol Zhao and Taylor Davidson. Fabikova’s adept play at the net confounded the Cardinal, which came up short in its effort. A win by the team of junior Lynn Chi and sophomore Denise Starr against the No. 14 team of Caroline Doyle and Ellen Tsay resulted in the Bears having the advantage going into the singles.
“Winning on court No. 1 was huge against the team that’s No. 2 in the country at the moment,” said Cal head coach Amanda Augustus about her team’s play on the doubles courts. “We played aggressive, we played smart, and they stuck to their game plan. On court No. 2, they also did such a really good job of playing aggressive tennis.”
The Bears then gave one of their finest performances of the season in singles, as they exploited Stanford’s weaknesses and capitalized on them to win the overall match. No. 56 Chi was the first to post a win, as she dominated Lindsay Kostas, 6-1, 6-0. Chi’s dished aces on the court and her flat strokes were too much to handle for Kostas, who slumped to a straight set loss. Estlander, too, made the most of her last regular-season home match, as her superb game at the net paved the way for a straight set win over Paulette Wolak.
“Cessi (Estlander)’s been playing really well,” Augustus said. “I think that was a good matchup for her game style. Same with Lynn (Chi). It was really nice to have her out there on the court. It bodes really well for the postseason coming up the way she hit the ball today and that she was able to play in both doubles and singles.”
No. 48 Starr clinched the overall win yet again for the Bears, as she beat No. 18 Davidson. Starr firmly kept the match under her control with her groundstrokes and slices. Limiting her unforced errors was also critical, as she was able to confidently hit winners across the court. Susanyi also had a strong performance against Stanford. She systematically broke down No. 96 Krista Hardebeck and finished points with her stunning backhand. In a match that featured long rallies, Susanyi was resilient and tactically astute, which contributed to her victory.
“It was important to keep the balls away from her strike zone,” Susanyi said. “I kept the ball high. I did get into trouble early on as the balls were coming up short, but I kept my focus, and it paid off.”
This match ended what was a very strong season for the Bears. The only disappointment for them was missing out on the Pac-12 conference title by a single point, as No. 2 USC clinched it by defeating No. 5 UCLA on Saturday.
“Our goal this year is to do well in the NCAA team final and hopefully be successful,” Augustus said. “We have structured ourselves this way. We’ll see what the draw looks like in this year’s championships, and I think we should be well positioned.”
Devang Prasad covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].