Following an accomplished regular season, Cal women’s tennis ended a short-but-sweet postseason run Saturday. Coming off the back of becoming regular season’s Pac-12 champions — with an 18-7 record in the spring — the Bears had hoped to continue their run in the NCAA national championship.
And Cal looked promising by winning the first two rounds at home against NAU and Texas Tech — but the team was bested by No. 6 North Carolina State 4-0 in Raleigh, leaving the tournament in the sweet 16.
“This was a very different level. We made the sweet 16 last year, but this match we were very close to having it go in our favor,” said Cal head coach Amanda Augustus. “I’m very, very proud of what this team did.”
The Bears had a very successful season in doubles. Early in the semester, some of the teams were struggling to win points for dual doubles, leading the coaching team to reshuffle the pairs.
For most of the season, juniors Haley Giavara and Valentina Ivanov played together on court one. Playing alongside junior Erin Richardson earlier in the season, freshman Jessica Alsola joined fellow freshman Katja Wiersholm in a very strong pairing. Richardson played instead on court three with senior Julia Rosenqvist.
Against North Carolina State, however, doubles proved more difficult. Augustus remarked that the opposing team had barely lost a doubles point all season, establishing it as a tough opponent from the start.
Giavara and Ivanov were the first to fall, losing out 6-3 on court one. Richardson and Rosenqvist swiftly followed, posting the same score and handing the NC State Wolfpack the doubles point.
“We could have executed our serve and returns better. They had a strong serve game which got them through an advantage pretty much immediately, and it was hard to break them,” Rosenqvist said. “Despite it being a loss, it was truly an honor for me to play with (Erin).”
The singles seemed to prove just as tough. Coming into the match with a 25-5 record, the NC State Wolfpack was ready to play.
Richardson and Hannah Viller Moeller were the first two out, with the former posting a loss of 6-2, 6-1, and the latter coming in 6-0, 6-1. Rosenqvist fell to opposition Priska Nugroho at 7-6, 6-1. The NC State Wolfpack therefore clinched at 4-0, earning a spot in the NCAA quarterfinals in Urbana, Illinois next week.
Losing a first-set tiebreaker can be of either great help or immense detriment — allowing a player to restart a game and mindset or break flow and confidence. Rosenqvist said it was tough to lose the tiebreaker, as the loss also took with it some of her strategy.
“She was a tough opponent in a way where she was better when you were pushing her around rather than when she had control over the point,” Rosenqvist said. “I like to play aggressive, and she was the better player when she got pulled out wide; when she got the pressure on her.”
Three singles matches were left unfinished after the clinch. On court four, Wiersholm was on track to go into a third set, losing the first 2-6 yet taking the second 6-4. On court two, Alsola was in the middle of a second set, having dropped the first 5-7 and ending at 2-3. Giavara on court one was trailing 7-5, 4-1 when the match was abandoned.
Despite the loss, the team has had many accomplishments during the past season. Losing to a top-10 team in the sweet 16 is certainly an honorable way to finish out the season.
Members of the coaching team said they were very proud of what the team has accomplished, and they now look ahead at the individual championships starting May 23 where Giavara — the only Bear in the main draw — will be vying for a deep run and a go at a U.S. Open wildcard.
Maria Kholodova covers women’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected].