Losing a tight one in agonizing fashion is so painful that some would almost rather be blown out in a landslide.
In its home debut last weekend, Cal women’s tennis endured two such matches before enjoying an upset win on Sunday.
No. 24 Cal (5-3) was felled by No. 7 Vanderbilt (5-3) 4-3 Friday and lost by the same score to No. 5 UCLA (7-1) Saturday. The day after, Cal was able to defeat No. 17 USC (4-2) in a comfortable 5-2 upset to avoid no wins at Hellman Tennis Complex over the three-day span.
Sophomore and rising star Julia Rosenqvist (No. 45-ranked) had the “best win of her career,” as described by Cal head coach Amanda Augustus, against the nation’s third-ranked player in Vanderbilt’s Fernanda Contreras. Rosenqvist launched a furious comeback after losing the first set 2-6, finishing 6-4, 6-0.
The Commodores clinched the match at 4-2, with Christina Rosca’s (No. 9) win over Cal senior and co-captain Olivia Hauger (No. 20), 6-4, 0-6, 6-3. Hauger led 3-2 in the third set, but could not put Rosca away and suffered her first loss against a higher-ranked opponent on the season.
The Bears matchup against the Bruins was the most excruciating — sophomore Anna Bright (No. 69) found herself in a third set tiebreaker for the whole match. Despite an impressive two-set victory over Vanderbilt’s Amanda Meyer (No. 37) the day earlier, Bright ended up losing to UCLA’s Abi Altick on court-four singles.
Bright was not the only Bear to have a setback on Saturday. Rosenqvist and Hauger, each of whom have had incredible starts to the spring, dropped their singles matches against the Bruins in two sets. Rosenqvist was upset by UCLA’s Jada Hart, while Hauger lost a tough one to UCLA’s star freshman Elysia Bolton (No. 11).
The Bears got back on track Sunday against the Trojans, only conceding two points total (both in singles). Rosenqvist continued to demonstrate her star potential, upsetting yet another higher-ranked opponent (No. 34 Salma Ewing).
Katerina Stloukalova was the only Cal player to win all three of her singles matches. The unranked junior had a weekend to remember, recording wins against both Vanderbilt’s Georgia Drummy (No. 50) and UCLA’s Ayan Broomfield (No. 112). This season, she played on court-three singles just once before this weekend.
“I felt like she was ready for it, and she definitely stepped up to the task,” Augustus said of Stloukalova’s play. “She had a fantastic weekend and I think it’ll give her confidence going forward.”
After having won two straight doubles points prior to this weekend, the Bears dropped doubles to the Commodores before winning the point in each of the next two matches against the Bruins and Trojans.
Cal’s two top-30 duos could not contend with Vanderbilt’s best (and also unranked) pairs Friday. On Saturday, however, both won in upset fashion.
The new partnership between Hana Mraz and Rosenqvist (No. 28) was able to take down UCLA’s Gabby Andrews and Ayan Broomfield (No. 8). Just one week earlier, Mraz and Rosenqvist defeated the top-ranked duo in the country at Pepperdine.
Cal’s Jasie Dunk and Bright (No. 23) also won their match against UCLA’s second-best pair, Hart and Bolton (No. 14).
“I think we’re right in the mix,” said Augustus. “We’ve demonstrated that we’re one of the top teams in the country, which is one of our goals every year.”
On paper, the Bears took on three challenging, higher-ranked opponents and came away with one solid win. No one would have blamed the Bears for losing decisively to two top-10 units, but now they may not have another shot at an elite team for a while.
Dev Navani covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].