The 2015-16 season was a spectacular year for the Cal women’s tennis team. Although it may not have ended with a first-place trophy, the Bears made their mark amongst the top teams and showed promise for even greater seasons to come.
The Bears ended their indoor season in February by winning the ITA National Indoor Championship, earning the No. 1 national ranking in the process. This was just the beginning of a stellar outdoor season.
Cal ended its year with a 23-2 record and went an undefeated 11-0 at home. In the process, the Bears started a program-high 19-0. Its only loss in the regular season came from its last match to then-No. 17 Stanford, who went on to become NCAA Champions. The Bears had previously beaten Stanford in Berkeley just a couple of weeks prior.
Cal stayed atop the standings for most of the season after going back and forth with Ohio State before securing its No. 1 ranking heading into the NCAA Tournament.
All season, the Bears proved their dominance amongst top five teams. In February, they beat then-No. 7 Florida, 4-3, with freshman Olivia Hauger clinching Cal’s first win. The Bears routed UCLA and USC, both consistently within the top 25, twice during the regular season with little difficulty. A few weeks later, Cal crushed then-No. 5 Pepperdine, 7-0 at home, with junior Karla Popovic clinching for the Bears.
In April, Cal defeated then-No. 18 Stanford at home in a tight match, 4-3, as junior Maegan Manasse beat Carol Zhao for the first time in her tennis career. The Bears’ first loss to the Cardinal also ended with a score of 4-3, displaying the competitiveness of the two teams.
With the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Bears clearly had high expectations. They were able to play at home for the first two rounds, giving them an advantage that they probably did not need, considering it defeated both UT Rio Grande Valley and UCSB, 4-0. The round of 16 went similarly, as Cal crushed Texas Tech in the same 4-0 fashion. The quarterfinals were the first time the Bears faced a noteworthy team, and they were able to beat the familiar No. 8 Pepperdine, 4-2. Soon though, the team’s NCAA run would be halted by a loss to No. 12 Oklahoma State, 4-3, in the semifinals. It was the Bears’ first semifinals since 2009.
Cal ended its season with only two losses, displaying its strength among top teams. It also had two singles players and a doubles team of No. 4 Manasse and junior Denise Starr, who lost in the NCAA Doubles Championship final to a No. 3-ranked team. Despite not quite coming out on top, the Bears proved that they are solid on all fronts. Cal has two seniors graduating — Klara Fabikova and Lynn Chi — but the rest of the team will be returning for the 2016-17 season with more experience and an even greater thirst to become champions. Being so close has surely ignited a spark within the players, and it can be assumed that the Bears will come back next season with a hunger to win it all.
Taylor Choe covers women’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected].