Even without its top doubles team of Maegan Manasse and Denise Starr playing, Cal women’s tennis came tantalizingly close to the doubles title at the USTA/ITA Northwest Regional Championships at Stanford. The team of senior Klara Fabikova and freshman Olivia Hauger played together for the first time and made the finals of the main doubles draw. On Tuesday afternoon, however, they fell to Stanford’s Taylor Davidson and Caroline Doyle on Stanford’s home court in a hard-fought 7-6 (5), 6-3 match.
Although this was Fabikova and Hauger’s first time playing together, they were seeded third in the tournament — most likely as a result of Fabikova winning last year’s doubles title while partnered with the now-Cal undergraduate assistant coach Zsofi Susanyi. Davidson and Doyle seeded first in this event after being seeded second in last year’s tournament, in which they were defeated by Fabikova and Susanyi.
The Bears’ team only made the finals by way of a very impressive comeback win over another Stanford team in the semifinals. Fabikova and Hauger beat Krista Hardebeck and Caroline Lampl, 3-6, 6-2, 1-0 (7). Hardebeck and Lampl were not seeded in the main draw but were coming off a dominant win over the second-seeded team.
“(Fabikova and Hauger) communicate well. Klara is obviously experienced and a very good doubles player, so she can play with just about anyone,” said Cal head coach Amanda Augustus. “Olivia’s groundstrokes are really solid, and she has good court sense, so the two of them together are really able to adapt well.”
Hauger has shown a clear penchant for comeback wins in her limited time on the team. She pulled off the feat at the Cal Nike Invitational and did so twice at the regional championships. Before her come-from-behind win in the doubles semifinals, she won a 2-6, 6-2, 1-0 (10) match against Stanford’s Melissa Lord in the consolation singles draw.
“(Hauger) is just a competitor and a fighter, and that’s why we recruited her,” Augustus said. “I think she’ll be really fun to watch in the (spring) season. She’s going to win a lot of points for the Bears and be a big factor on the national scene as well.”
Hauger and Fabikova clicked right away, in contrast with Fabikova’s early-season struggles when paired with sophomore Karla Popovic. Augustus has not committed to playing Fabikova and Hauger together moving forward if they do not receive a bid to the National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships in New York. Regardless, this tournament showed that they have a lot of potential as a duo.
“Our playing styles are very different so we complement each other really well,” Fabikova said. “I think we just got better every single match we played, and I’m a little sad we didn’t get to win (the title), but overall we had a really good tournament and I’m really excited for what is going to come next.”
The results in the singles draw were not quite as fortuitous. Popovic, Fabikova and Starr were the best singles players competing because fourth-ranked Manasse, who had already received a bid to the National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships, sat out the tournament. All three made the quarterfinals, but none made the semifinals. Popovic, seeded sixth, lost, 6-4, 6-4, to the No. 1-seeded Davidson. Fabikova and Starr, who seeded second and fourth, respectively, were both upset by lower-seeded players, with Fabikova losing to ninth-seeded Maiar Sherif Ahmed of Fresno State, 6-2, 7-6 (7), and Starr falling to Washington’s unseeded Tami Grende, 7-6 (7), 6-2.
Grende also defeated sophomore Lyann Hoang, 6-0, 6-1, in the round of 16. In the consolation draw, Hoang had a rematch against St. Mary’s Vanessa Nommensen, whom Hoang played at the Nike Invitational. Hoang won at the Invitational, 1-6, 6-4, 6-3, but did not have the same fortune in Palo Alto, losing 6-1, 6-3.
“(The players) want not only to have the team in the top five but to be in the top 10 themselves for singles and doubles,” Augustus said. “The progress we’ve made is really good to see.”
Andrew Wild covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected]