Déjà vu: Cal women’s tennis repeats mixed success at ITA Kick-Off Weekend

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Redemption seems to be the defining trait of indoor play for Cal women’s tennis, as the Bears repeated their results from last year’s ITA Kick-Off Weekend. As they did in 2019, the blue and gold dropped their first official match of the season, this time against No. 20 Virginia, before rallying to win the consolation round — a result they achieved this time around against hosts No. 19 Kansas.

The ITA Kickoff employed the conventional scoring format of NCAA Division I tennis, with a best-of-seven tournament, featuring three doubles and six singles matches. However, with only one point coming from doubles and the other six from singles, the scoring is heavily in favor of strong individual play.

No. 16 Cal started the weekend off slow, losing the doubles point as the pairings of Anna Bright with Haley Giavara and Julia Rosenqvist with Valentina Ivanov both fell to Virginia’s combos of Chloe Gullickson and Amber O’Dell, as well as Natasha Subhash and Sofia Munera, respectively. The teamwork between Cal junior Jasie Dunk and senior Katerina Stloukalova, however, shone as they defeated Rosie Johanson and Vivian Glozman (6-4) in Cal’s lone doubles win Friday.

The Bears started the singles competition on a much higher note, dominating the Cavaliers in the opening sets of all six matches, winning five. Giavara defeated Johanson in two subsequent sets, 6-2 then 6-4, to put Cal on the board and tie the overall score at 1-1. Virginia came back with a vengeance, however, winning four of the second round of sets — although Stloukalova, the only Cal player to lose her first set, avenged that 6-2 loss against Glozman, 6-1.

She fell in the third set (1-6) along with Rosenqvist, who was thwarted by Virginia’s No. 30 ranked Subhash. Those results gave the Cavaliers a 3-1 lead, before O’Dell’s upset victory over No. 20 ranked Ivanov clinched the victory for Virginia and sent the blue and gold to the consolation round.

The consolation round started off in a similar fashion, with the Bears losing the doubles point to the Jayhawks (2-1) as Ivanov and Rosenqvist secured the lone doubles win against Kansas’ Sonia Smagina and Vasiliki Karvouni. Cal head coach Amanda Augustus kept the doubles pairings from the previous day, citing the need for team building and chemistry.

“The doubles teams (need) to build teamwork and get used to playing with one another,” Augustus said.

Kansas took an early lead in the singles rounds, with Jayhawks Maria Toran Ribes and Karvouni toppling Cal’s Jessica Zeynel and Erin Richardson. No. 21 Giavara maintained her dominance from Friday, however, winning two consecutive sets 6-3, 6-2 over No. 93 ranked Malkia Ngounoue to narrow Kansas’ lead to 3-1. Giavara, the freshman who reached No. 20 on ITA’s rankings by the end of last year, impressed both fans and Augustus after going undefeated in singles play over the weekend.

From there, the blue and gold mounted a frantic comeback led by Cal’s three other individually ranked players. No. 100 Bright, No. 45 Rosenqvist and No. 20 Ivanov won in three sets, assuring the points Cal needed to overturn Kansas. The win over the Jayhawks gave the Bears their first victory of the 2020 season, over a team ranked in the top 20, no less.

Unfortunately for the Bears, their first-round loss means that they will not be moving on to the ITA DI National Men’s Team Indoor Championship, with their next match coming against UCLA on Feb. 21.

“These were teams that (Cal women’s tennis) played every year and there wouldn’t be any need for special preparation,” Augustus said, despite the relatively higher ranking of No. 4 UCLA, and the upcoming match with No. 6 Pepperdine.

Teddy Park covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].