Fans packed into the Hellman Tennis Complex stands, and tensions were through the roof. Waves of blue, gold and red were seen across all six courts as both Cal and Stanford fans settled into their seats to watch two of the top women’s tennis teams in the Pac-12 conference battle it out for the regular-season championship.
For one player in particular, the stakes were high. The only senior on the team, Julia Rosenqvist, felt the pressure in her bones as the match day was also a celebration of her career at Cal. On Senior Day, the fans, teammates and coaches honored Rosenqvist as she played her last regular-season match.
“I felt more pressure of winning today because it is Senior Day, and you want to go out in the best way possible,” Rosenqvist said. “I was more nervous for this match than any other, but I also know that nerves are good.”
And she delivered. The senior ended up being the one to clinch the match and paint the Pac-12 championship blue and gold. While she clinched to make it 4-1, the final score was 5-2.
In doubles, the senior started off strong. Alongside doubles partner Erin Richardson, they beat the Cardinal opponents 6-3 –– with teammates Haley Giavara and Hannah Viller Moeller then clinching the doubles point on court two.
In singles, playing one of the longest matches of the day on court three, the senior fought hard against Stanford’s India Houghton. The first set was close, ending up in a long, intense tiebreak.
The stands held their breath, routinely erupting in rowdy cheers as Rosenqvist’s teammate, freshman Katja Wiersholm, was battling out her own tiebreak at the same time just one court over. With Cal and Stanford fans alike bringing the fire, the Bears reciprocated on the courts.
It was 8-8, then 9-8 to Roseqnvist. The crowd was silent. The opponent’s shot, intended to go down the line, goes out –– and Rosenqvist takes the set. Cal fans could just about be heard on the other side of Berkeley.
“It felt like the whole match — like it felt like the second set. I just wanted to take it because I know that I was tired, she was tired, it would be better for everyone,” Rosenqvist said. “For the first time, I know how it feels when pros say: ‘I use the crowd.’ ”
The day didn’t go without drama on the other courts, though. On court two, fans watched a battle of the freshmen: Cal freshman Jessica Alsola was unable to overcome the Stanford powerhouse Alexandra Yepifanova. The No. 20 Cardinal was too strong of an opponent, with strong shots and a powerful serve.
Cal head coach Amanda Augustus remarked that Alsola wasn’t able to tactically play as she wanted to. Combined with the strength of her opponent, it led to a tough 6-2, 6-0 loss.
Overall, it was a stellar day for tennis. Even the matches Cal lost –– Alsola’s battle against Yepifanova and Wiersholm’s second loss of the season –– had some great gameplay. This is nothing but encouragement for the Bears, who are now the top seed going into the Pac-12 championship next week. Playing as the defending champions, there is a lot on the line.
Cal’s Pac-12 record this spring sets the Bears up quite nicely going into the tournament. No. 7 Cal won the regular-season title with an 8-1 Pac-12 record, only losing against Arizona State.
Being back in Ojai after being held in San Diego last year due to COVID-19, the Pac-12 championship is sure to see all of the conference teams bringing their best tennis next week.
“It’s a really special tournament — I grew up playing it all the way through college,” Augustus said. “I’m excited for them to get that opportunity to compete there.”