Losing isn’t fun — there is no way around it. But more often than not, teams that fall short of a big win find strength and motivation from some of their toughest losses.
That’s the attitude that the No. 11 Cal women’s tennis team has to be feeling after falling to No. 12 Texas in the ITA Kickoff final this weekend. The Longhorns, who remain undefeated on the year, outlasted the Bears on their home courts, 4-3, to earn a spot in the ITA National Indoor Tournament beginning Feb. 9.
After back-and-forth chess-like competition that left the match up for grabs heading into the last matchup, all eyes turned to the Hellman Tennis Complex’s court two. Cal freshman Julia Rosenqvist battled with Texas sophomore Anna Turati, the No. 87 singles player in the nation with a berth to Nationals on the line.
Despite Rosenqvist’s valiant effort, the freshman lost the tie-breaker in the first set and ultimately came up short, as Turati prevailed, 7-5, 6-4, to send Texas to Wisconsin next month.
The Bears and Longhorns qualified for Saturday’s championship round with wins over their opponents Friday — UNLV and Mississippi State, respectively. Early on in Cal’s match with the Rebels, it looked as if the Bears were already looking forward to the championship round after grabbing a decisive 3-1 lead.
Cal dropped the doubles point, but started off singles on the right note, including a key win for junior Olivia Hauger over UNLV’s top singles player, junior Anna Bogoslavets. But the Rebels didn’t fold after that, as junior Aiwen Zhu scored an upset of freshman sensation Anna Bright, the No. 27 singles player and the Bears’ most consistent competitor early on in the spring.
The first of Cal’s dramatic finishes of the weekend fell its way, with the ball and racquet in the hands of sophomore Alexis Nelson battling UNLV sophomore Samantha Li in the deciding match. After trailing 4-2 in the third and final set of the match, Nelson fought back and broke serve, pulling away with a 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-4 win to give Cal its date with Texas.
Unlike their match with UNLV, the Bears began the day by seizing the doubles point over Texas, with Bright and Rosenqvist taking down Turati and sophomore Petra Granic, 6-3. Cal earned arguably its biggest match win of the weekend with Hauger’s 6-3, 6-4 singles victory over Granic, who outranks Hauger by eight spots in the singles rankings.
Turati’s twin sister, Bianca, who came in as the No. 10 singles player in the nation, entertained the crowd with a wire-to-wire performance against Bright, 6-1, 6-2 to swing the advantage back towards the Longhorns.
With Nelson and freshman Jasie Dunk falling in their respective single matches to freshmen Fernanda Labraña and Marta Perez-Mur, the weight of the match came down to one court, as it often does in collegiate tennis.
While Rosenqvist did not deliver with a win down the stretch, the learning experience will undoubtedly prove vital to her development as one of Cal’s future centerpieces.
Along with Dunk, freshman Vivian Glozman and Bright, who struggled in singles this weekend, the Bears have a lot to build off of in the coming years, if not weeks. With dual-match play about to head into full swing, it is nearly a guarantee that many matches will come down to a final court for Cal.
Josh Yuen is an assistant sports editor. Contact him at