Ready, play: Alsola, Richardson seek deep run at ITA Fall Nationals

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Madeleine Fruman/Staff

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San Diego. April of 2021. Cal women’s tennis hedges its bets at the Pac-12 Championship. The Barnes Tennis Center fills with suspense as the Bears tie 2-2 with UCLA, then clench a 3-2 lead.

It is the final match, and Cal junior Julia Rosenqvist enters the deciding set against the top seed.

And … success! In a stunning three-setter, she defeats her opponent and wins the blue and gold’s first-ever Pac-12 championship.

This week, the Bears hope to see victory at the Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego once more, where two of Cal’s star players will be looking to show off their talent and hard work at the ITA National Fall Championships.

As the fall season for Cal women’s tennis is coming to an end, doubles team Erin Richardson and Jessica Alsola hope to close it out with a bang.

Richardson, a junior, and Alsola, a freshman, played together for the first time at the ITA Northwest Regionals held at Stanford on Oct. 25. With an impressive run, they made the semifinals of the tournament, and were only ousted by the Stanford top seeds 8-7(7).

Despite not making the final — which would have guaranteed the team a spot in Fall Nationals — the duo was selected by the ITA for the doubles draw.

“I’m just excited honestly, it’s such a great opportunity for the both of us, especially with (Alsola) being a freshman,” Richardson said. “We had a really good and exciting run at regionals, so I think we’re both just so excited to get out there and show what we can do.”

Head coach Amanda Augustus was impressed with how well the newly formed team did at regionals. Since then, in preparation for nationals, the two have been working on improving their teamwork.

“We’ve been focusing on figuring out each other’s game, how each of us likes to play,” Richardson said. “There were some things that we can adjust for next time.”

The junior said that she has been struggling with injury in the past, so making nationals was a personal goal for her. She hopes that playing at the Barnes Tennis Center again will bring back memories of a great win and the good time the team had there last year.

Alsola is also potentially facing a run of her own: She is the first alternate in the singles draw. If she moves up into the main draw, Alsola will be given a chance to play her first national championship. This is no small feat, especially for a freshman.

She was beaten in the semifinals at regionals by Stanford’s Alexandra Yepifanova 6-2, 7-5. Yepifanova went on to lose in the final to her fellow Stanford player Connie Ma, who was the second seed. If she plays in the singles, Alsola will have a chance to seize another win this season, with the first being at the Cal Fall Invitational in September.

As Alsola and Richardson travel to San Diego, other players will travel to Arizona to play in the ASU Thunderbird Invitational.

The fall season has been good practice looking ahead to the spring, when Cal women’s tennis will be facing individual college teams in duals.

Although there was an absence of blue and gold at regional finals, the Bears still have a chance for one last win of the season — and it could be a big one. Should Cal succeed in winning at the Barnes Tennis Center many months later, the team’s confidence will surely skyrocket ahead of the spring season.

Richardson feels confident about the team’s run at nationals.

“I just know we’re not done yet, we’ve got more to show,” Richardson said.

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