You can’t remain undefeated in conference play forever.
After starting off the Pac-12 season red-hot with a 3-0 record, No. 15 Cal women’s tennis (9-5, 3-2) dropped two matches against No. 16 USC and No. 11 UCLA this weekend.
The Bears managed to take a point off each team, losing 6-1 against both of the Los Angeles squads.
Senior Maria Smith won the lone point in her singles match against USC on Friday, while junior Alexis Nelson did the same the following day against UCLA.
The Bears had been placing a higher emphasis on the doubles point after beginning the season slow in that respect, and results were showing. Before this weekend, Cal had won seven of the last eight possible doubles points.
The losses came after the Bears had won five straight matches. In fact, the first win of that streak came against the Trojans themselves, winning 5-2 in nonconference play in Berkeley.
Cal also had a tight match against UCLA that weekend in February, losing 3-4.
In Los Angeles, however, it was a different story. The Bears came out flat in doubles on both Friday and Saturday.
Cal failed to win a doubles set on either day, but No. 23 duo Anna Bright/Jasie Dunk came close, leading 5-2 in their unfinished match against the Trojans.
“We didn’t do a good enough job taking care of our own service games, and we just didn’t play aggressive enough. Normally we’re the ones that are the more aggressive team, and I think especially against UCLA, on courts two and three they were definitely more aggressive than we were,” said Cal head coach Amanda Augustus of the doubles losses this weekend.
The Bears lost 6 games to 1 on both courts two and three in doubles play against the Bruins.
Cal was not able to make up for the poor starts on either day in the following singles matches either, although it was able to push USC to the limit. In all singles matches lost by the Bears on Friday, three sets were needed by the Trojans to ensure the result.
No. 30 Julia Rosenqvist was defeated by No. 49 Salma Ewing in a tight one. Ewing is a familiar opponent, as Rosenqvist got the victory against her in Cal’s first match-up with USC in February.
Rosenqvist also played UCLA foe Jada Hart (No. 56) very close, pushing to a third set tiebreaker, which she lost 10-8.
Against the Bruins, the Bears seemed to run out of steam by singles play. Cal lost in two sets on all of courts two through five on Saturday afternoon.
“We needed to shake off the doubles quicker, and get into the singles. I think we maybe got into the habit on winning the doubles point, but I think we now we need to refocus on coming out quicker if we don’t win (doubles), “ said Augustus.
This weekend was the first opportunity in over a month that Cal had to play a ranked opponent, and after playing both of these teams very competitively earlier in the season, getting a win or even two on this road trip would have been a reasonable goal.
The Bears are still confident in its body of work this season and its ability to play at a high level against all teams, ranked or not.
“These are not bad losses by any stretch, “ Augustus said. “Sometimes it’s good to get a good little lesson in to refocus and fire up again for the next matches, and I think we’ll shake it off and be better for it.”
The challenges won’t stop for Cal, as next weekend they will host No. 13 Washington and No. 35 Washington State for another opportunity to go at it with top competition in conference play.
Dev Navani covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].