Full circles, apt parallels, poetic do-overs. The Bears have been subject to plenty of those.
Just like last year, the Bears kicked off their season in Hawaii. Earlier this season, Cal was scheduled to play UCSB and Pepperdine on the exact same days it clashed with the two teams a year prior. And on Friday, Cal once again cruised past SDSU with a 5-1 overall scoreline — after last year’s 5-2 win just over a year ago.
Now, Cal steadies itself for No. 3 Michigan, hoping to use the newly found momentum to secure a crucial win.
But with all the parallels in the world, this season has felt very different to what the blue and gold had produced by this point last year. Cal women’s tennis started the year 4-0 in dual matches, racking up win after win to climb to the nation’s No. 4 spot.
Cal’s first dual match loss? Michigan. Talk about full circle.
The 3-3 Bears, now a humbling No. 66, are out looking for revenge — and to right the ship — on their home Hellman Tennis Complex. Last year’s battle against the Wolverines saw the Bears win just one singles match after taking the doubles point.
Not a team Cal normally plays, it was a special treat, as it were, to get to play on Michigan’s home courts on the way to Indoor Nationals.
This time, it’s the Wolverines’ turn to pay a visit to the Bears.
In terms of settings, Cal has the upper hand this year. Warmed by the comfort of their familiar home courts and a familiar home crowd in the stands, the Bears are also much more accustomed to the Bay Area conditions — an edge the Bears have over an indoor-oriented Michigan about to play its first outdoor match this coming week.
By the numbers, however, things are not looking so rosy for Cal. Michigan is 7-1 on the season, with its only loss against No. 2 North Carolina, home to some of the country’s strongest players.
Admittedly, Cal has been dealing with a litany of cancellations and an extraordinarily difficult schedule. But with only two matches played separating the two schools and with the Wolverines also having faced their fair share of ranked opponents — six, to be exact — things may be looking worrisome.
That being said, Cal looked confident out on the courts on Friday against SDSU. The Bears took first sets across the board in singles.
“It’s nice to finally feel like we’re back into the swing of matches, because match groove is totally different than just practice, so it’s really nice to have that win going into the rest of the season,” said Cal’s No. 1 player Haley Giavara, who won her match 6-2, 6-1 against SDSU’s top player, Tamara Arnold.
With good defense at the baseline and attacking at the net, the Bears were poised across all six courts. There was just one loss accompanied by a blue and gold name — No. 122 Katja Wiersholm lost out to No. 104 Daria Detskovskaya in a third-set tiebreak 4-6, 7-5, 10-8.
The sophomore did not play a full third set, as this was the last finish of the day, but the Bears did see one three-setter on Friday. Fellow sophomore Makenna Thiel, in her first singles dual match of the year, gave up just one game to take the first set 6-1. She lost the second set 1-6, but took the third with a confident 6-3 scoreline.
Although Cal looked good out on the courts in singles, the team missed out on an opportunity to play doubles due to the rain — something head coach Amanda Augustus specifically said she wanted to work on ahead of next week.
“We had to make the best of it, it was more important to get the match in — we had to squeegee three times to get (the court) ready for play,” said Augustus. “So we’ll just keep working on it, and then hopefully on Wednesday we’ll get to play doubles as normal.”
It would certainly be a full circle moment for Cal to edge a win against Michigan after last year’s loss. And a win here is crucial for the Bears: It would restore their winning record ahead of conference matchups and inject confidence into their play.
But to have a repeat of last year’s successes, when the Bears finished off the season in the No. 11 spot, they need to hone in and close out on key points. They have the ability and talent, that much is clear, but have to ensure they stay focused and on top of their opponents at all times.
But win or loss, Berkeley’s tennis fans are certainly in for a treat Wednesday.