On Wednesday, the Cal women’s tennis team headed to Waco, Texas, to begin the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships. While the doubles teams have yet to start competing, the Bears’ singles players have already kicked off their runs at the NCAAs. And for some of the Bears, their individual runs have already come to a close.
The day started with No. 4 Maegan Manasse, as most things have for the team this season. Manasse, the tournament’s No. 4 seed, was a heavy favorite in her first-round matchup against No. 64 Cindy Chala of Virginia Commonwealth University. Chala, however, was not going to go down without a fight. She beat Manasse, 6-4, in the first set and kept the second set close, losing only, 4-6. Manasse showed why she’s been on court No. 1 all season for the Bears, dominating in the last set and winning, 6-1.
For Manasse to prove that her former No. 1 ranking is no fluke, she will need to advance to at least semifinals of the tournament, which is the next time she could face someone ranked higher than she. She is 36-8 as a singles player on the season. Should she make it to the semifinals, Manasse will likely have to take on one of her main rivals from this season, No. 2 Carol Zhao of Stanford. Zhao defeated Manasse, 6-2, 5-7, 6-1, en route to clinching Stanford’s win over the Bears in the NCAA team tournament’s round of 16.
Manasse will play Alabama’s No. 34 Erin Routliffe in the second round Thursday and should be favored to come out with a win to advance to the round of 16.
The only other Bear with a chance to advance that far will be No. 43 Zsofi Susanyi, who quickly dispatched No. 49 Yuliya Lysa from Arkansas in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2. Susanyi typically played on Cal’s third court, and it says a lot for the Bears that their third-best singles player was able to advance to the second round. She is 35-10 as a singles player this season. Susanyi will have a big challenge in the next round, as No. 10 Julia Jones from the University of Mississippi stands in the Cal senior’s way. This is most likely where Susanyi’s run will end.
Cal’s other singles players weren’t able to keep their seasons going and were eliminated in their first-round matchups. No. 44 Denise Starr ran into trouble when facing No. 31 Ronit Yurovsky of Michigan. Starr lost, despite getting off to a strong start, winning the first set, 6-1, before Yurovsky took the next two sets, 7-5, 6-2, to advance to the second round. The other Bear in the tournament, No. 18 Klara Fabikova, had similar challenges in her first-round matchup against No. 8 Sydney Campbell from Vanderbilt. This was a tough matchup for Fabikova — the runner-up for the Pac-12 singles championship for the last two years — to run into so early. Campbell left no question as to who was more on her game today, and she won in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the next round.
Cal’s doubles teams will look to have more success when they start their play in the tournament Thursday. Both of the Bears’ teams are in the top 10 and will be favored to make it far in the tournament. The Bears’ No. 7-ranked duo of Manasse and Starr will play against No. 29 Quinn Gleason and Monica Robinson of Notre Dame, and Cal’s pair is favored to advance. Cal’s No. 5 duo of Susanyi and Fabikova will have a bit of a tougher matchup on paper, as they take on No. 21 Kendal Woodard and Paige Hourigan of Georgia Tech.
With the way the bracket is currently set up, there is a possibility that the Bears’ two doubles teams could face each other in the finals, with the national championship on the line. While this would surely be an awkward matchup, it is one that the Cal coaches and teams are hoping for.
As the doubles teams begin play and the remaining singles players move on to round two, however, it will be important for the Bears to avoid looking to the finish line and instead focus on what’s right ahead of them.
Hooman Yazdanian is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].