Ahead of her first NCAA singles championship match, Haley Giavara said she got “first-match jitters.”
As No. 63 Giavara and teammate No. 71 Jessica Alsola traveled to Champaign, Illinois to play in the NCAA tournament last week, jitters were certainly not unexpected: Giavara is Cal’s court-one player and returning All-American, while Alsola is one of the Bears’ star freshmen, earning the most wins on the team this season.
Both players had commendable matches, but ended their runs quickly. Alsola lost in the first round against Duke’s Chloe Beck, and Giavara fell in the round of 16 against Lisa Zaar of Pepperdine.
As a team, Cal lost out to North Carolina State in the round of 16. Giavara and Alsola carried the Bears’ torch into the singles tournament. After successful respective seasons, the two were first selected as alternates and then moved into the main draw.
On the first day of play last Monday, Giavara’s match was first. In a three setter, the rising senior beat Oklahoma State’s Lisa Marie Rioux 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
“She was interesting,” Giavara said of her opponent. “She was a fighter, she didn’t really show negativity — that was something that is always respectable in tennis.”
While her teammate battled out to win, Alsola played a three-set match that ended in a relatively narrow loss. Losing the last set only 6-4 — what Cal head coach Amanda Augustus described as being “within a couple points of beating her” — Alsola couldn’t overcome the No. 9 ranked player. The young star won the first set 6-4, but lost the next two.
“Her future is bright,” Augustus said. “I want to make sure that people realize what a really, really great player she is.”
With only one splash of blue and gold left in the draw, Giavara moved into the second round. After one set, however, her opponent, Layne Sleeth of Oklahoma, retired. Giavara thought this was more of a mental aspect: Sleeth had just come out of playing in the team championship finals, and was likely very tired.
By winning this match and entering the round of 16, Giavara once again became a singles All-American, the first time since her freshman year. This adds to the accolades she has collected over the season, including a Pac-12 Player of the Week award and being named to the All-Pac-12 team.
In her last match of the tournament, Giavara faced Pepperdine’s Zaar. Despite having played Pepperdine in dual matches three times over the past season, once in the quarterfinals of ITA Indoors, she had never faced this particular opponent: Zaar typically plays on court two, whereas Giavara is a court-one player.
Seeing her play in other matches, though, Giavara said she knew the match was going to be tough.
The match featured some very high-level tennis. Though Giavara was bested, both athletes pulled out great shots and exciting rallies.
“It was her day that day, she played phenomenally,” Giavara said of Zaar. “She was more ready to go, more focused than me, but we were both playing really good tennis. It was just her tennis on the deuce points, that’s just how it goes sometimes.”
The rising senior lost the match 7-5, 6-2, to end the Bears’ season and kick off the summer.
While Cal women’s tennis had a fairly successful year, with an 18-8 record as a team, it isn’t satisfied. “Happy, not satisfied,” is something the team has been using to describe its results since last year.
“Yeah, we’re happy with our results, we’re happy to be ranked 11th now, but we’re not satisfied with it. I’m certainly not,” Giavara said.
Already reaching for the stars for next season, Cal will have a few months off before the return of college tennis in the fall.