Wind or excessive sunshine in sports may be your biggest enemy or your best ally.
Cal women’s tennis faced setbacks in a setting it was quite unaccustomed to: indoor tennis. While tennis is mostly an outdoor sport, some of the season is played indoors, and so, players who are used to using the wind, shine and other conditions to their advantage were suddenly faced with their opponent on the other side of their net — and little else.
After a stellar start to the season, No. 4 Cal carved itself a path to indoor nationals, beating BYU and Vanderbilt at the ITA Kickoff Weekend to qualify. The Bears then played Michigan, a very experienced indoor team, Feb. 8, just days before the beginning of nationals.
The team, however, was unable to overcome Michigan’s strength.
“Their tactic just suited the surface much better,” said Cal senior Julia Rosenqvist, who lost out against Michigan’s Andrea Cerdan 6-2, 6-3. “Indoors there is nothing else that can impact your game, so these girls were really used to taking the ball early and having great depth in their shots.”
In singles, the Bears saw only one win. Katja Wiersholm, Cal’s 17-year-old newest recruit, played a great match on court five and only let her opponent take one game. The freshman won 6-0, 6-1 staying in control of her rallies with plenty of great winners.
The rest of the team, however, fell in singles after winning all of its doubles matches against Michigan.
Junior Haley Giavara had a very tumultuous first set on court one. Up to serve first, she saved a break point and went up from 15-40 to deuce but failed to see it through, which set her back a break early on. After being down 0-3 in the first set, Giavara managed to come back and take it in a tie break, winning 7-6(2). She was unable to carry the momentum into the next two sets against an opponent who seemed to be a match for her strength and ended up losing the next two sets 6-0, 6-1.
The doubles went much better for the Bears: This was the team’s third doubles point in a row. After missing out on the doubles points earlier in the season, the coaching team switched the pairings. Pairing junior Erin Richardson with Rosenqvist seems to have paid off, as did teaming up freshmen Jessica Alsola and Wiersholm. With the two pairs playing alongside seasoned duo Valentina Ivanov and Giavara, all three teams seemed to adjust well to indoor conditions and won their respective matches.
“We did a pretty good job at adjusting as we went for the doubles, so we just need to do a little more of that in the singles,” said Cal head coach Amanda Augustus. “Certain shots you can use outside more because you have the wind and the sun, so we just have to practice transition shots and being a little more aggressive sooner.”
Now the team has its eyes set on the indoor national championship. They will be facing 16 other teams, all of whom won their respective kickoff weekends. The Bears have had a very successful start to the season, with every player showing very strong tennis both in singles and doubles, so this could be a chance for them to prove themselves nationally.
The conditions at the championship will be different to what they’re used to, so this loss — the Bears’ first of the season — may be an important learning opportunity. The team has said all along that this was a chance to practice playing indoors ahead of the championship.
“This is a very resilient team,” Augustus said. “I’m excited to see them be at this top national tournament because that’s where we should be and are in the right to be.”
Maria Kholodova covers women’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected].