Bears miss out on ITA Northwestern Regional finals after solid run, still hope to make Fall Nationals

photo of Cal women's tennis
Matthew Gibson/Senior Staff

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Transitions can be difficult. They are notoriously regarded as a challenging time in your life, a period in which you may not be performing at your best but have the potential to improve in the future.

Cal freshman Jessica Alsola was seemingly unaffected by her transition to collegiate athletics. The first year made both the singles and doubles semifinals at the ITA Northwest Regionals, an impressive accomplishment for someone brand-new to the team.

Alsola, seeded fourth heading into the ITA Regionals, has had a successful season so far, highlighted by her win at the Cal Fall Invitational in early October. At regionals, she had a notable run, giving her and her doubles partner, junior Erin Richardson, a chance to secure a spot at November’s National Fall Championships.

Cal’s other star freshman, Makenna Thiel, also made the round of 32, coming away with three wins but missing out on the round of 16 after falling 6-4, 7-5 to 14th-seeded University of Oregon’s Uxia Martinez Moral.

“To have both of our freshmen transition so quickly to not only studying at Cal but competing at the highest level tennis-wise bodes well for our team overall,” said head coach Amanda Augustus.

The blue and gold shone at regionals with many wins and a place in the semifinals in both singles and doubles. Unfortunately, Cal failed to reach the finals after being ousted by Stanford in both matches.

On the first day of the tournament, the Taube Family Tennis Center saw 12 blue and gold wins in the singles, with six out of seven matches being won in the opening round.

In the round of 64, the Bears had a very successful run with thorough defeats of their opponents. Senior Julia Rosenqvist, seeded seventh, won with a staggering 6-0, 6-1 against Kianna Oda of Gonzaga. Sophomore Hannah Viller Moeller also came away with a win without dropping a game, winning 6-0, 6-0 against Kenzington Mann of Eastern Washington. Sophomore Jada Bui, as well as Richardson and Thiel, also triumphed over their opponents in this round.

In the round of 16, Alsola and Richardson, seeded third, beat Stanford pair Sara Choy and Valencia Xu 6-2 to advance to the quarterfinals. Thiel and Viller Moeller, however, exited the tournament in the round of 16 after losing 6-2.

Playing her third Stanford player in a row, Alsola entered the singles semifinal determined to score a spot in the final. Down with an early break in the first set, Alsola lost 6-2. There was a glimmer of hope in the second set, with the freshman up 5-4, but Stanford’s fifth-seeded Alexandra Yepifanova proved to be too strong of an opponent to beat.

Cal women’s tennis doubles had a strong performance at the tournament. Augustus mentioned that the coaching team was trying out some new pairings with both Alsola and Richardson, who reached the semis, and Thiel and Viller Moeller, who reached the quarterfinals, playing together for the first time.

“We’ve been working on some doubles in practice, so it was good to see that we potentially have two really solid teams,” Augustus said.

Even though a heavy rain storm interrupted what was supposed to be an outdoor tournament, the Bears were able to adapt and not let it deter them from performing at their best.

“The team was resilient and able to adapt as needed to changing circumstances,” Augustus said.

The Bears that get a spot at nationals will travel to San Diego in early November. Others will be on their way to Arizona to compete in the ASU Thunderbird Invitational. As the fall season for Cal tennis comes to an end, it hopes to secure some wins in the last few tournaments before spring.

Looking into next year, the Bears are getting ready for head-to-heads against individual colleges in duals and hope to notch more wins after a season of many successful matches but few tournament wins.

Maria Kholodova covers women’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected].