Sometimes in college tennis, even what looks like a blowout can be a close and competitive match. A final match score may suggest a lopsided game but can often be misleading, as many courts can go deep into the third set.
This was the case for No. 14 Cal women’s tennis in its 6-1 loss to No. 4 Stanford at home in its regular-season finale. Cal (12-7, 6-4) lost the first six points of the match before their lone highlight of the day — sophomore Anna Bright (No. 119) and her upset win over Stanford’s Emily Arbuthnott (No. 36) on court four singles.
The Cardinal (19-1, 10-0) completed another undefeated conference season for the third time in a row, winning all 10 of their Pac-12 matches.
Cal lost the first three points of the match pretty handily, conceding the doubles point and falling in two sets on court five and court three singles.
“We had a couple of tough deuce points, and I thought we missed a few too many returns at the wrong time,” said Cal head coach Amanda Augustus of the lost doubles sets. “Doubles is so short with that set, so you really can’t give any unforced errors.”
A comeback, however, seemed more than possible even after the 3-0 start. Sophomore Julia Rosenqvist (No. 44) led Stanford’s Michaela Gordon (No. 28) 7-5, 4-1, while fellow sophomore Hana Mraz led her match on court six 6-1, 4-2 as well.
Senior Olivia Hauger and Bright were in tough back-and-forth matches that each could have gone either way.
Rosenqvist, who has pulled off a couple of upsets in the past and led Cal to strong victories, eventually lost control of the match. Losing 11 straight games, Rosenqvist dropped the second and third sets 6-4, 6-0 respectively.
“I think she (Rosenqvist) just got a little passive at that point. With Michaela, you got to really beat her, and she’s definitely never going to give you unforced errors — you’ve got to finish the match (against her),” Augustus said.
Mraz also went on to lose her match even after building a strong lead, losing the second and third sets with scores of 6-4 in each.
“I think Stanford made some adjustments. They’re well coached, and they made us lift our game in the third set,” Augustus said. “We had opportunities.”
Hauger was the third Bear who was not able to convert her opportunity into a point for Cal in her final regular season match in blue and gold. Although she never held a decisive lead like Rosenqvist or Mraz, she was up 5-4 in the third set against No. 38 Melissa Lord, before losing in a tiebreak.
Amid Cal’s struggles to finish games, Anna Bright had one of her best days in the season against the top-40 Arbuthnott. After losing the first set 6-3, she responded with fury, winning the second set 6-1. Then, down 5-3, 40-0 in the third set, she fought off four straight match points and brought it to a tiebreaker which she dominated 7-2.
“I’m glad at how hard we fought, and I think we had a terrific crowd that really helped us a lot,” Augustus said. “We’re excited to move into the postseason, as we have a really good opportunity in front of us.”
Cal will compete in the Pac-12 tournament in Ojai from Apr 24-27, where they could get another shot at Stanford. The Bears’ 6-4 conference record puts them at fifth in the standings behind USC, UCLA, Washington, and Stanford.
After the conference tournament, the Bears will then play in NCAAs, in which they will have a good chance at hosting the first two rounds, based on their current top-16 ranking.
Dev Navani covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].