Bears put losses behind them, sweep aside Aztecs

Celine Bellegarda/Staff

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Life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Whether you take that advice from Rocky Balboa or you figure it out on your own, it can get pretty clear pretty quickly for anyone with a lick of sense and a bit of brains: It’s not always picture-perfect.

Cal women’s tennis has experienced a distinct lack of sunshine and rainbows in a 1-3 start to its spring season, but such precedents were unmistakably absent when the Bears throttled San Diego State 7-0 Feb. 29. The sun was out at Hellman Tennis Complex as the blue and gold improved to 2-3.

Cal entered Saturday in need of a win. The prior weekend saw the Bears drop two games against No. 8 UCLA and No. 17 Pepperdine. Granted, those losses both came on the road against highly-ranked teams, but the blue and gold entered their home opener against the Aztecs after being completely shut out in their Southern California tour.

In many ways, SDSU was the perfect team to play. The Bears have played the Aztecs every season since their 2008 campaign and have won every one of those encounters. A 7-0 blanketing of SDSU isn’t a statement win, but the dominant victory could turn Cal’s season around as Pac-12 play begins against UCLA on Friday.

“It was nice to have our first dual match on our courts. We’ve been practicing hard, that showed today,” said head coach Amanda Augustus. “I was really encouraged, especially with how we finished off a few of those matches, so hopefully that will continue to build confidence.”

That confidence began with the doubles point. The blue and gold had yet to secure a doubles point this semester, despite cycling through multiple combinations and fielding the nation’s No. 25 duo in Anna Bright and No. 13 Haley Giavara.

On Feb. 29, Cal reversed those fortunes. Upperclassmen Bright and Alexis Nelson edged out SDSU duo Nnena Nadozie and Abbie Mulbarger, 6-3, before Jasie Dunk and Julia Rosenqvist took a 7-5 nail biter against freshman Julia Jordan and junior Tamara Arnold to hand the Bears their first doubles point of the season.

“We got the doubles point, which was huge,” Rosenqvist said. “I mean, one score on the board, to start the singles with that — it feels (good) to just go out and be able to play singles freely and just be confident with the team.”

Rosenqvist, ranked No. 50 in singles by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, challenged Arnold again in singles and beat her for Cal’s sixth point of day, but that point came after Bright, Erin Richardson and Giavara had already ensured a blue and gold sweep.

Bright won the Bears’ first singles point of the day, cranking out a 6-1, 6-1 win over Jordan. The Cal junior was one of the most vocal players at Hellman Tennis Complex, celebrating her own successes while shouting encouragement to her teammates. Her intensity could be felt and it echoed up and down the courts after her victory.

“Today was really good, we all came together, we were all really determined and we wanted to bounce back from last weekend,” Bright said. “This was a really good opportunity for us.”

Richardson followed suit, quietly defeating SDSU freshman Cécile Morin 6-1, 6-4. It was Richardson’s first appearance in the singles lineup since her defeat against Kansas State, and like the Bears’ performance as a team, it may mark a reversal of fortunes for the freshman.

Giavara would have the deciding word against the Aztecs. The freshman has shot up the rankings this season and proved her mettle against SDSU’s Nadozie. Giavara drove the Aztec junior to the edge, taking a 5-2 lead in the second set after winning the first 6-2. Nadozie refused to give in, though, matching the Cal freshman stroke for stroke and winning a match to stave off total defeat.

It was all for naught, however, as Giavara brought the crowd to its feet and put Nadozie away in a 6-3 victory in the final set. Attention turned to the remaining matches, but Cal had created a decisive 4-0 lead in the overall team score.

The Bears finished the 7-0 win without losing a single set in singles or doubles, and as the sun poured down and Cal took a victory lap, Hellman Tennis Complex seemed to be picture-perfect for the home team. But it will be up to the blue and gold in their match against No. 8 UCLA to determine whether the sunshine and rainbows are here to stay.

Jasper Kenzo Sundeen is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].