Marathon, not sprint: No. 6 Cal women’s tennis narrowly misses No. 5 Texas

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Meghnath Dey/Staff

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As the Berkeley Half Marathon raged on in the city, Cal women’s tennis had its own marathon: a very tight match against No. 5 Texas. As the spectators cheered the runners on, so did the crowd at Hellman Tennis Complex: With the stands filled to the brim with both Cal and Texas supporters, the atmosphere was unrivaled.

Previously ranked No. 1, the Texas Longhorns beat Cal in a consolation match at indoor nationals in Madison just two weeks earlier. The Bears came in looking for revenge, and they tried to bounce back against Texas on Feb. 27 on their home terrain. Ranked No. 6, the Bears knew playing against the No. 5 team was always going to be close. 

And the doubles started out just like that.

On court one, Cal juniors Haley Giavara and Valentina Ivanov brought the heat with powerful returns and unmatched energy. A seasoned team, the pair has good communication on the court, with both players showing off some great shots both at the baseline and at the net. They were, however, unable to close out and fell to their opponents 6-3. 

The other doubles teams weren’t so successful either, with Julia Rosenqvist and Erin Richardson losing out 6-4, leaving the court two match to end at 4-3 after the doubles clutch.

“We came off a little bit defensive in the start, not really going for the shots we wanted to,” Rosenqvist said. “Then we got more energy; the crowd and the men’s team really helped us for sure.”

The crowd was indeed electric, with the sun shining and Cal and Texas fans trying to out-cheer one another to the point that their voices gave out.

Though doubles was closer than the scoreline suggests, head coach Amanda Augustus said there were missed opportunities.

“We maybe didn’t make enough first serves or didn’t get the point started the way we needed to,” Augustus said. “They played three different doubles teams against us this time, so we had to prepare for that on the fly.”

Singles started off with slightly more varying levels of success but still quite strong on most courts. Washington State’s No. 1 recruit and Cal’s newest player, Katja Wiersholm, once again played a great match, still remaining undefeated in singles matches for the Bears. She beat her Texan opponent 6-2, 7-6(3). 

Ivanov had a slower start, getting broken early and losing the first set 6-3. With characteristically long rallies, and an interesting style from her opponent Sabina Zeynalova, she lost in two –– and Zeynalova clinched the match.

In singles, the Bears ended up coming out with wins from Wiersholm, Rosenqvist and freshman Jessica Alsola. Alsola’s match came after the clinch but was played to completion. The three-setter on court two, which the player has only recently started to play on, was filled with effortless forehands and a lot of confident exclamation.

Haley Giavara lost out to Peyton Stearns 6-4, 6-3 but put up a formidable fight, especially considering her Texas opponent is ranked No. 4. Hannah Viller Moeller also had an exciting first set but lost out on the tiebreak and went on to lose the second set 6-3. 

A three-three split in singles is perhaps not what the Bears were hoping for, but it was a close match against a top-10 team. It also marked the last match before the start of Pac-12 conference play. 

The first conference match will be against Oregon on Sunday. With the Bears hosting again, it is a chance for them to feel the support of their home crowd. 

“We really appreciate everyone coming out to support the team,” Augustus said. “It always definitely helps to have the great support we have here at Cal; hopefully they enjoyed it and will come back for our next match.”

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