Surely, one of the strangest aspects of collegiate sports this season is the absence of fans. Typically, the constant cheering from students and fans during home games gives athletes an added sense of motivation to defend their home turf. Surprisingly, this lack of support at home has had little impact on the No. 20 Cal women’s tennis team, which extended its unbeaten record at Hellman Tennis Complex this season with dominant wins against Pac-12 foes Arizona and No. 25 Arizona State last weekend.
The Bears began their duo of Pac-12 conference matches during the weekend strong with a 7-0 sweep of unranked Arizona. Cal came out of the starting blocks quickly and claimed the doubles point after Jada Bui and Julia Rosenqvist secured a 6-2 win against Arizona’s Abby Amos and Talya Zandberg. Despite dropping the first set on both the fifth and sixth courts in singles play, Cal kept its foot on the gas and clinched the overall team win after Bui, Rosenqvist and Valentina Ivanov each claimed routine straight-set victories on the fourth, second and third courts, respectively.
The Bears maintained their impressive form the following day against the No. 25 Sun Devils, notching a convincing 6-1 win. Despite a hiccup in the doubles point, Cal showed poise with its response in singles play, earning victories at all six singles positions. Notably, the Bears’ No. 1 singles player, Haley Giavara, showed why she was at one point this season the 18th-ranked singles player in the country with a 6-3, 6-2 thrashing of Arizona State’s No. 37 Ilze Hattingh. With the win, the Bears improved to 3-1 in Pac-12 play and stretched their record at home to 7-0 this season.
Cal was unable to continue its momentum Tuesday in Malibu, however, as the Bears fell 6-1 to No. 4 Pepperdine despite the Waves being without Ashley Lahey, who, at one point in January, was the No.1 player in the ITA individual rankings. Although the final scoreline was one-sided, Cal competed toe-to-toe with Pepperdine throughout the majority of the match. After the two sides split results in the second and third doubles lines, the Waves’ Jessica Failla and Shiori Fukuda claimed a narrow 6-4 victory against Giavara and Ivanov to give Pepperdine the doubles point. Additionally, the Bears pushed three singles matches to a final set but came up short in each. Cal’s lone point on the day came by way of Giavara, who was named this week’s Pac-12 Player of the Week for the first time in her collegiate career.
Despite the loss, the Bears seemed intent upon taking the positives from the match and expressed excitement about facing the Waves at home later this season.
“I’m really proud of how hard the team competed,” said Cal head coach Amanda Augustus. “We know how close we were, and we know we just need to make a couple adjustments to things.”
The Bears will now look forward to another set of back-to-back Pac-12 conference matches at home starting Friday against No. 42 Washington (9-4). The Huskies enter the match 1-3 in Pac-12 conference matches, with losses to Arizona State, UCLA and USC. Washington’s number one singles player, No. 74 Vanessa Wong, has had an outstanding season thus far, winning 12 of her 13 matches.
Cal will face No. 39 Washington State (10-6) the next day, once again at Hellman Tennis Complex. The Bears will look to get the better of the Cougars for the second time this season after defeating them 4-1 during the ITA Kickoff Weekend in January.
Cal’s match against Washington will mark its fifth match in nine days. In spite of the heavy schedule and the fatigue that is presumably setting in, the team’s enthusiasm continues to show.
“Obviously, we didn’t get to play the fall season this year, so we’re super excited every time we have a match,” Augustus said.
Milad Shafaie covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].