Cal women’s tennis splits for week, takes on set of new challenges

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Every sport at every level has its all-stars, whether it’s by that specific name or something else. Those who set the bar for the rest of the league. For student-athletes at the NCAA Division I level, they have an all-star title of their own: All-American.

While receiving the title of All-American is rightfully an extraordinary achievement for many, it’s been anything but rare for Cal in recent years. Current student-coach Maegan Manasse is a five-time All-American, while head coach Amanda Augustus is merely a four-timer. As one contingent of Bears will take on a set of opponents at this weekend’s St. Mary’s Invitational in Moraga, two All-Americans are representing the team at the Riviera All-American Championships in Pacific Palisades — senior Karla Popovic and junior Olivia Hauger.

“(All-Americans) are a good tradition that we’ve got going on in our program,” Augustus said. “It’s a great part of our culture, and our goal is to continue it for many more years.”

Although the singles main draw doesn’t begin until Thursday, there was still tennis to be played early in the week, starting Tuesday. That’s when Hauger began her tournament as part of the qualifying singles flight, fighting for a chance to take part in the main event, featuring Popovic and most of the top names in the country.

Coming in ranked at No. 75 and a 57-15 overall singles record in two years at Cal, on paper, Hauger shouldn’t have been in line for a long singles run. But after taking the first set versus No. 31 Petra Melounova of Hawaii 6-3, Hauger put her foot on the gas pedal and breezed through the second set 6-2, scoring an upset right off the bat.

“Olivia’s hitting the ball super clean,” Augustus said. “She had a good little practice on Monday and executed her game plan really well.”

6-2 was a favorable occurrence for Hauger on Tuesday. She followed up her first win with a 6-2, 6-2 dominating performance over No. 97 Claudia Herrero of Nevada, and she punched her ticket Wednesday into the main draw with a 6-1, 7-6(5) victory against Northwestern’s Maddie Lipp.

Once play begins Thursday, Popovic and Hauger will get their first chance to see where their singles and doubles play is at against fellow All-American candidates.

Their teammates who are hoping to follow in their footsteps, including freshmen Anna Bright, Jasie Dunk and Vivian Glozman, will also be busy this weekend, making the short trip to St. Mary’s for another three-day invitational. Fresh off of a successful Cal Fall Invitational, the team will look to take their level of play one step further, especially in singles play.

“They all got their feet wet last weekend at our invite, and now they get to do it again,” Augustus said. “I do want to see us step it a little bit with our singles this weekend and have our players play in the final rounds of the singles flights.”

All-Americans and first-years alike will be busy for the Bears in the coming days. It remains to be seen who will emerge as the next All-American candidate, but for now, anyone is a possibility.

Josh Yuen covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].