Freshman Julia Rosenqvist impresses, but Cal women’s tennis drops 3rd straight

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From wet conditions delaying its match to a team called the Waves dominating it for the majority of the contest, the Cal women’s tennis team fell victim to the recurring theme of water this weekend.

In what was far from the way they envisioned things would play out, the Bears (4-4) decisively dropped their third consecutive dual match Saturday, this time to No. 6 Pepperdine, 6-1. The showdown in Berkeley began more than three hours after the scheduled start time because of spontaneous rain, which kept court conditions at the Hellman Tennis Complex modest at best.

While the Waves (7-1), the runners-up at last month’s National Team Indoor Championships, were expected to impress against Cal’s young lineup, the Bears never appeared to let their guard down once play actually began, despite the lopsided result.

Head coach Amanda Augustus deployed a lineup that featured four of her rising freshmen, pairing them with arguably the toughest set of competition they have faced so far in their collegiate careers.

Led by the No. 13 and No. 14 singles players in the nation — sophomore Ashley Lahey and senior Mayar Sherif, respectively — Pepperdine’s singles lineup consisted of six top-100 players, a daunting challenge for a Cal team that actively has just two — No. 29 freshman Anna Bright and No. 42 junior Olivia Hauger.

It was Lahey and fellow sophomore Adrijana Lekaj who kicked things off with a 6-0 dismantling of freshman Jasie Dunk and junior Maria Smith. That opening doubles match, however, would be the only match in which the Bears didn’t win a single set. But things continued to swing in favor of the Waves early and often in this one.

Less than an hour later, Sherif and junior Luisa Stefani — the No. 34 doubles pairing in the nation — clinched the doubles point for Pepperdine with a 6-2 win over Hauger and freshman Julia Rosenqvist. The doubles aspect of matches continues to be a big question mark for Cal as the calendar year hits March; the team hasn’t secured the doubles point since a home win against UCSB on Feb. 18.

While the No. 29 singles-ranked Bright entered play seven slots ahead of the No. 36 ranked Stefani, it was the latter who started off hot and never looked back, sending Bright to a 6-0, 6-4 loss in the second singles match of the afternoon.

Elsewhere down the line, Sherif broke serve against Hauger in a 6-3, 6-2 performance, all part of a scoring run that saw the Waves extend their lead to 6-0 over the Bears.

If there was a silver lining to be taken out of Cal’s wet weekend, it was Rosenqvist’s second straight match with a singles upset over a nationally ranked opponent.

Rosenqvist overcame a rough first set to upset Pepperdine’s top singles player in No. 13 Lahey, 0-6, 6-4, 6-4 on Hellman’s court two. Last week, the Sweden native scored a late win over UCLA’s No. 73 senior Terri Fleming. Saturday’s upset pushed Rosenqvist’s singles record to 9-4 on the year.

With a pair of rematches lined up next weekend at Hellman against USC and No. 9 UCLA, Pac-12 foes that Cal fell short against on the road, the Bears will hope to stop treading water and find some stability in what has been an up-and-down beginning to the spring season.

Josh Yuen is an assistant sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].