There is nothing more exciting than facing a new team. Up until the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament, the Cal women’s tennis team knocked down each of its unfamiliar opponents, bagel-ing its way past the round of 16.
On Thursday, the No. 1-seeded Bears cruised by 16th-seeded Texas Tech, 4-0, in the round of 16 to make it to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2013. The No. 90 duo of senior Klara Fabikova and freshman Olivia Hauger’s 6-2 win over Texas Tech’s pair of Sabrina Federici and Felicity Maltby won the doubles point for the Bears after the teams were forced to wait three hours to play their match because of rain. Additionally, in singles, Karla Popovic defeated Katelyn Jackson, 6-3, 6-2, to clinch the match for Cal.
The Bears did not stop there. Saturday’s quarterfinal match proved to be a little more of a challenge for Cal as it faced the familiar eighth-seeded Pepperdine team. The Bears lost the doubles point as its two top teams were unable to perform at their best. Fortunately for Cal, its singles players pulled through and were able to give it a 4-2 win. This time, it was No. 80 senior Lynn Chi who helped save her team from elimination by beating Dzina Milovanovic in a three set match, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, to clinch the win for the Bears.
Chi’s win will allow Cal to be back in the semifinals for the first time since 2009 to play 12th-seeded Oklahoma State. The fact that the Cowgirls are seeded outside of the top 10 should not be underestimated, especially after their recent upset win versus fourth-seeded Ohio State, 4-2, in their quarterfinal match. In its previous round of 16 match, Oklahoma State defeated the No. 5-seeded Georgia.
Oklahoma State has three ranked doubles teams — the No. 43 pair of Maria Alvarez and Kelsey Laurente, No. 54 duo of Viktoriya Lushkova and Carla Tur Mari, and No. 79 Katarina Adamovic and Vladica Babic. Cal’s No. 4 duo of juniors Maegan Manasse and Denise Starr will most likely be facing the team of Alvarez and Laurent, which upset the Buckeye’s No. 9 pair of Miho Kowase and Anna Sanford.
In singles, the Cowgirls have no ranked players, greatly contrasting the Bears’ stacked singles lineup. Cal has four ranked singles players, all juniors and seniors, in No. 7 Manasse, No. 16 Fabikova, No. 80 Chi and No. 88 Starr.
Oklahoma State seems to be much stronger on the doubles front, and although it has depth with its doubles teams, Cal does have a top-10 ranked pair. This should prove interesting, especially since the Bears are always striving to improve on doubles. In singles, Cal seems to hold the upper hand. Also, looking at the Cowgirls’ previous match, its singles upsets were against players ranked lower than all of the Bears’ ranked singles players.
As each round goes by, the stakes get higher and higher. Once again, Cal will be back to facing an unseen opponent this season, but one with a recent history of defeating big name teams. We’ll just have to wait and see if Oklahoma State will claim the Bears as its next victim.