Close, hard-fought tennis. That’s all a fan can ask for. After nearly eight hours of play on back-to-back days, No. 12 California will return home having split their trip down to Los Angeles.
The action began Friday when the Bears headed down to the David X. Marks Tennis Stadium to take on No. 21 USC. As was the case a week before in Berkeley, doubles play was closely contested between the two teams. And just like last time, the doubles point was to be decided in a tiebreaker. Freshman Alexis Nelson and senior Denise Starr stepped up to the challenge and proved to be too much for their opponents as they went onto win the tiebreaker 7-3.
After securing the doubles point, senior Stephane Lin and graduate student Maya Jansen made quick work in their singles matches and had Cal up 3-0. However, USC would storm back and win the next two singles matches. It was then up to sophomore Olivia Hauger or Starr to bring home the victory for the Bears. Hauger came in clutch, beating the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week Rianna Valdes to clinch the victory for Cal.
The last match was played out with Starr narrowly missing out on the win in a deciding third set tiebreaker. All in all, it was another quality win for the Bears as they pushed their winning streak to three games.
Next up for the Bears was No. 28 UCLA.
While the Bears trampled all over the Bruins when they last played in Berkeley, this match was different from the onset. In doubles, things didn’t go as planned. After the No. 23 pair of Hauger and junior Karla Popovic were breadsticked, the remaining two matches went to tiebreakers, one of which remained unfinished. The tiebreakers were close but Cal was unable to close out either of the matches.
“I didn’t think we played as well we could have in doubles,” said coach Amanda Augustus. “I think that’s a strength of ours and I didn’t think we played as aggressively as we needed to.”
In singles, the Bears quickly put the doubles matches behind them and stormed to a quick 3-1 lead behind victories by Starr, Hauger and sophomore Maria Smith. While the Bears only needed one win from the three remaining matches, it wasn’t meant to be. All three of the games went to a decisive third set but the Bears weren’t able pull it out.
“It comes down to a couple points here and there,” Augustus said. “I’m proud of the way the team played after a really long match yesterday. It’s encouraging to see and something that we will build off leading into the (NCAA) tournament.”
While the Bears certainly wanted to win both matches and continue their winning streak, playing on the road is not always as easy as playing at home. However, with senior Maegan Manasse slowly making her return from a wrist injury, Cal will look to improve as its continues Pac-12 play. But now, after eight long hours of grueling tennis, the Bears will rest.