An aspect of a sport that makes it beloved by fans and athletes alike is the constant possibility of a comeback — that an individual or team can recover from a significant deficit and earn a miraculous victory. But sometimes, one side is so dominant in the opening stages of a contest that any late efforts staged by the opposition are rendered meaningless.
Such was the case last Sunday, when the then-No.17 Cal women’s tennis team’s strong starts in singles and doubles led the squad to a 4-3 win over San Diego.
Similar to most of their matches this year, the Bears quickly pounced on the Toreros with solid doubles showings. After Cal’s Julia Rosenqvist and Jada Bui earned a 6-2 win over San Diego’s Jordyn McBride and Abigail Desiatnikov on the third court, Anna Bright and Hannah Viller Møller clinched the doubles point for the Bears with their victory on the second court.
Cal’s confidence from the doubles point win carried over into singles play. Bui and Bright notched clinical victories on the fourth and sixth courts, respectively, dropping just three games combined in their matches. After the pair of wins pushed the blue and gold’s point total on the day to 3, former Pac-12 player of the week Valentina Ivanov clinched the team victory for Cal by claiming a 6-3, 6-4 bout over McBride. Although the Toreros went on to upset both the Bears’ No. 18 Haley Giavara and No. 43 Rosenqvist, their efforts were ultimately in vain.
“They haven’t played that many matches yet but they’re a very solid team and we knew that,” said Cal women’s tennis head coach Amanda Augustus.
The 8-2 Bears, which despite Sunday’s win dropped to No. 20 in this week’s ITA team rankings, will now prepare for back-to-back Pac-12 matches beginning Friday against unranked Arizona. The Wildcats (9-6) sport no nationally ranked singles players or doubles players on its roster and has lost all three conference matches it has played this season.
Conversely, the following day’s matchup against No. 25 Arizona State promises to test Cal. The Sun Devils are on a three-match tear, with convincing wins over Pac-12 foes Oregon, then-No. 38 Washington State and Washington. Additionally, Arizona State’s Ilze Hattingh and Sammi Hampton are ranked No. 37 and No. 115 among the nation’s singles’ players, respectively.
Yet, the blue and gold appear to be keenly aware of the unpredictability of collegiate tennis matches.
“One thing we’ve been working on is just going at every match the same way no matter who we play,” Ivanov said. “We know we have a lot of potential as a team to beat anyone.”
Following this weekend’s contests, the Bears will look to upset No. 4 Pepperdine in Malibu on Tuesday. The Waves are 8-2 on the season, with their only losses coming at the hands of No. 1 North Carolina and then-No. 2 UCLA at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. Additionally, Pepperdine boasts six singles players inside the top 100 nationally; notably, graduate student Ashley Lahey is ranked No. 1 in the country. A win for Cal would avenge both a 0-4 loss to the Waves in the second round of the 2019 NCAA Championships and a 0-5 loss last season.
“I always just want us to give our best and compete really hard,” Augustus said. “That’s been the tradition of our program, and it’s something we’ll continue to do.”
Milad Shafaie covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].