No. 17 Cal exits NCAAs with loss to No. 6 Pepperdine in round of 32

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In the postseason, there are Davids, Goliaths and the in-betweens. Sometimes, one lucky team can become a Cinderella.

That fortune did not materialize for the No. 17 Cal women’s tennis team on Saturday in Malibu against the hosts, the No. 6 Pepperdine Waves. The Bears lost in a 4-0 sweep to the Waves to end their team season.

“We had opportunities, and I think the match was a lot closer than the score indicated,” said Cal head coach Amanda Augustus. “The girls all fought really hard and represented Cal really well. I think we are one of the top teams in the country, and that is our goal year in and year out.”

To reach the round of 32, Cal defeated unranked Long Beach State on Friday with a 4-2 score. Cal’s No. 41 Julia Rosenqvist, No. 48 Olivia Hauger and No. 79 Anna Bright won in straight sets for the victory.

The best shot Cal had at taking a point off Pepperdine and making a run was the beginning of the match in doubles, despite three of the Waves’ doubles pairs being nationally ranked.

The only win for the Bears on Saturday came after the No. 54 duo Bright and Jasie Dunk finished a doubles set on court two against Pepperdine’s No. 86 Ashley Lahey and Daria Kuczer.

“Doubles-wise, I think we could have done a better job on a couple of the courts,” Augustus said. “I don’t really think we played quite as well as we have in a lot of our other matches. That’s probably the takeaway from this particular match.”

That was certainly the case for Cal’s top duo, No. 20 Rosenqvist and Hana Mraz. The pair played some of Cal’s best tennis this season but lost some of its magic against Pepperdine’s No. 41 Anastasia Iamachkine and Jessica Failla, losing, 6-1.

The 1-0 hole the Bears faced before singles was the smallest deficit they would see all afternoon. Pepperdine denied Cal all sets on the six singles courts, winning all of the first sets and finishing off the three win-clinching singles matches.

Dunk, playing in place of Mraz on court six, was the first to fall, losing quickly, 6-1, 6-1. Dunk had not played a singles match all spring season, with Mraz usually anchoring the last singles court.

“Although it didn’t go our way, I think there’s a lot to be proud of and a lot to learn from,” Augustus said. “We definitely had opportunities in this match.”

Pepperdine was without its star sophomore No. 16 Evgeniya Levashova on the day. Levashova played back in Cal’s February upset against the Waves.

The NCAA used its own ranking system to determine seeding for the tournament, and its determination of the top 16 teams in the country decided who got host privileges for the first two rounds.

Cal, finishing 17th by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, missed out on hosting and paid a large price by having to face the No. 6 team in the country in only the second round of the tournament. This was partly because of NCAA rules of geography and how far it wants to send teams early on in the postseason.

“Sometimes the geography can work in a different way, but that’s why hosting is so important,” Augustus said. Cal will now send three players to the national individuals tournament in Florida beginning May 20. Rosenqvist and Hauger will play in singles, while Mraz will join Rosenqvist in the doubles tournament.

Dev Navani covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].