Cal women’s tennis falls to Oklahoma State in NCAA Championship

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What a season it has been for the Cal women’s tennis team — No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, Pac-12 Singles Champion, Pac-12 Singles Player of the Year, Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Pac-12 Doubles Team of the Year, an ITA National Indoor Championship and 2016 Wilson/ITA National Coach of the Year.

The only thing missing seems to be the NCAA Championship. But despite this, the Bears still had a fantastic season.

“I’m really, really proud of them,” said Cal head coach Amanda Augustus. “We’ve had such a year. We made the final four and were 23-2, and our only two losses are to the two teams in the finals. I’m really proud of what they’ve done. It’s our first final four since 2009, and I think it is the best season we’ve had so far.”

The top-seeded Bears were dethroned by underrated Oklahoma State, which had only begun showing its dominance in the postseason. Nonetheless, the Cowgirls made waves as they fought their way past Cal, 4-3.

“I think everyone left it all out there,” said junior Maegan Manasse. “We unfortunately didn’t get the win we really wanted, but we had such a great win and we did win a national championship at the beginning of the year. We should be proud of what we have accomplished, and we made history out there. I think everyone competed their brains out, so I’m really proud of us.”

The Bears were unable to claim the doubles point as Oklahoma State’s duos on the two bottom courts defeated Cal players. In singles, sophomore Karla Popovic was the first to finish, dominating 6-1, 6-2, followed by freshman Olivia Hauger’s win, 6-2, 6-4. Both juniors, No. 88 Denise Starr and No. 7 Manasse, were upset by lower ranked players. No. 16 senior Klara Fabikova ended her season on a strong note with a win over No. 44 Vladica Babic, 6-3, 7-6 (6). In the end, it all came down to No. 80 senior Lynn Chi’s match. Chi was overcome in a disappointing three-set loss, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, to No. 66 Viktoriya Lushkova.

“Maegan and Denise played really well, and singles-wise Karla deserves a mention,” Augustus said. “She was completely undefeated in dual matches this season, and I think that’s pretty remarkable to go through a whole spring season like that. We definitely showed we’re one of the elite teams in college tennis. We’re right there, and I think the team will be super motivated going over the summer going into next season.”

The Bears were so close to the NCAA Championship. A 4-3 loss indicates that under other circumstances, the match may have gone another way. Fortunately for a few Cal players, their season is not over yet as the NCAA Singles Championship has begun and the NCAA Doubles Championship starts Thursday. On the first day of the singles tournament, Manasse defeated No. 30 Caroline Brinson of Georgia, 6-3, 6-2, while Fabikova also won, beating Missouri’s No. 53 Bea Machado Santos in a three setter, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3. The pair of Manasse and Starr will be looking to capture the doubles title when the Doubles Tournament begins.

Taylor Choe covers women’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected].