As the No. 3 Cal pairing of juniors Maegan Manasse and Denise Starr converted their final match point, they were engulfed by the joy of winning, a joy that head coach Amanda Augustus knew all too well. Twenty years ago, she had been in the same situation and emerged as a champion.
Her players had just won the doubles championship at the ITA Women’s All-American Championships to solidify their status as an elite pair in the nation. Manasse and Starr’s title was the third at the tournament in Cal’s history and the first since 1995, when Augustus had partnered with Renata Kolbovic to take the doubles crown.
The Cal pair overcame tough competition on the route to the championship. They faced and defeated accomplished teams, such as Georgia Tech’s No. 7 Kendal Woodard and Paige Hourigan in the quarterfinals and UNC’s No. 15 Hayley Carter and Whitney Kay, 6-1, 6-4, in the finals. Starr’s strong defensive play and Manasse’s adept technique at the net formed a combination that was hard to crack throughout the course of the prestigious tournament. With this win, the Cal pair has also booked a place at the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships.
“Winning the national championship in doubles was great,” Augustus said. “Maegan and Denise are really talented players, and this victory is a testament to their talent. They have been working hard on their game for a long time now, and this win is product of all that hard work.”
No. 4 Manasse also had a strong run in the singles despite Virginia’s Danielle Collins eliminating her in the semifinals. Senior No. 16 Klara Fabikova repeated her performance last year at the same tournament by reaching the round of 16, where a loss to Michigan’s No. 19 Ronit Yurovsky ended her run. Sophomore Karla Popovic made her tournament debut, participating in the qualifying singles, where she fell to Boston College’s Lexi Borr.
“Overall, the tournament was pretty good for the whole team,” Augustus said. “Karla got her first taste of the tournament. Klara repeated her last year’s performance. The highlight was definitely the doubles championship. It is a big deal to be national champions.”
While the more experienced Bears were grinding it out at the courts in Pacific Palisades, the younger Bears were looking to make an impression closer to home as they participated in the St. Mary’s Invitational.
Freshman Olivia Hauger and sophomore Audrey Mayer were featured in their second tournament in blue and gold. Junior Stephane Lin and sophomore Lyann Hoang joined them at the tournament. Hoang, who had finished as a runner-up at the Cal Nike Invitational gold flight singles, was knocked out in the round of 16.
Both Lin and Mayer were handed double bagels by their respective opponents in the singles round. The Cal pair did better in the consolation doubles, where they were able to post a win over the Hornets’ Saskia Angerer and Sofia Wicker, 8-3.
“I feel the players got to learn a lot at the tournament,” Augustus said of the St. Mary’s Invitational. “They faced players they will possibly meet again in some more regional competitions, and I think the experience will come in handy.”
Devang Prasad covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].