After a season of trials and tribulations for Cal women’s tennis, it’s finally time: The NCAA championship is here.
The Bears head to Austin, Texas for the first round of nationals to face San Diego on Friday after finishing out their season with a barely-winning 12-9 record. The season got off to a slow start, with Cal failing to get above a .500 record halfway through the season following some tough losses and rain-induced cancellations that kept Cal off the courts.
That being said, the team really picked up during Pac-12 play, going 7-3 in the conference to tie with Arizona State for second in the standings. Cal split its first two conference match weekends, losing out to Utah in early March and to USC on March 26.
“We also had a couple players injured in the first part of the season as well, (and) we’ve finally been able to get the matches (in),” said Cal head coach Amanda Augustus. “We’re finally rounding into what I think we can do as a team.”
Despite a solid regular conference season, the Bears failed to repeat last year’s feat of becoming regular-season Pac-12 champions. This year, the title went to the Stanford Cardinal, who finished the conference season with a perfect 10-0 record. The blue and gold also failed to make it to the finals of the postseason Pac-12 championship and were ousted by USC for the second time this season.
There is no doubt that the NCAAs will be an uphill battle for the Bears, especially as their first opponent is a team they lost to earlier in the season. Facing San Diego during the ITA Kickoff Weekend, the Bears failed to qualify for the ITA national team indoor championship after falling to the Toreros 4-1.
Bc Cal also lost against some top teams this past season, falling to then-No. 16 Miami, then-No. 10 NC State and then-No. 5 Michigan.
San Diego is coming into the matchup with a similar record to Cal, finishing the season with 12-10 and 6-1 overall and conference records, respectively. Augustus said she feels confident about being able to take on the Toreros this time around, especially as the Bears now have two huge contributors in Haley Giavara and Valentina Ivanov back from injury.
“There’ll be a different lineup facing them and (last time) was one of our first matches, so it’ll be quite different because of that,” Augustus said. “The good news is we know how they play as we’ve seen them already, and they’ll see something different from us.”
Cal is bringing some all-star players to Texas this week, including sophomore Jessica Alsola, who also earned a berth to the singles NCAA tournament slated for late May. This spring, Alsola went on a rampage of 18 consecutive match wins and now holds the No. 55 ranking in the nation, as of April 25. The sophomore will also be joined by teammate Katja Wiersholm in doubles, alongside the Bears’ other solid doubles teams in Giavara and Ivanov as well as Erin Richardson and Hannah Viller Moeller.
The Bears will be hosted by the Longhorns, who are one of the teams to host the regional championships as a top-16 team. The Bears hosted the event last year, but Augustus said the team is relieved to not have to worry about hosting this time around, especially given the tumultuous Bay Area weather this week.
Should the blue and gold win against San Diego, they will face the winner of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi vs. the University of Texas. The winner of the NCAA regional will advance to the super regional, the location of which is to be announced as of press time.
Despite the high stakes, Augustus said the team is excited for the tournament — one that Cal made the round of 16 of last year.
“We’re always looking forward to the NCAA tournament. We’ve gotten a pretty good rhythm (of) competing, so we’re excited,” Augustus said.