Last week, Ben Shelton set an example for college tennis players across the country. Cal women’s tennis head coach Amanda Augustus, among many in the tennis world, pointed out the great success of Shelton, who just last year played tennis as a sophomore at the University of Florida and last week made it to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.
While Shelton was battling it out in Melbourne, college teams across the country, including No. 11 Cal, participated in the ITA Kickoff Weekend, vying for a spot at the Indoor Nationals in Seattle. Cal women’s tennis needed to beat Princeton and the winner of USD-Georgia Tech to advance to the championship it won in 2016.
Unfortunately for the team, it did not succeed. While the Bears beat Princeton 4-1 on Friday, San Diego got the better of Cal on Saturday, also with a 4-1 win.
“I think we expected to win that match. When you’re hosting, you’re hosting because you’re expected to win,” said Augustus. “We could’ve won the match, we should’ve won the match, and we’ll do our best to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Against Princeton, Cal got the doubles point in two quick 6-0 and 6-2 wins on courts two and three, respectively. On Saturday against USD, however, Cal struggled to close out on key opportunities and lost the doubles point with a 6-3 score on both courts one and three. Augustus attributed this partly to the court time Cal missed out on due to the rain earlier this month.
Augustus also said that the doubles loss shifted the momentum of the match — the Bears were going into singles already down by one point, meaning that three losses was all USD needed to punch a ticket to Seattle.
In a similar fashion, in singles against Princeton on the first day, Cal was able to get decisive wins across the board, with only one loss out of the completed matches: Erin Richardson’s 6-3, 6-2 loss to Grace Joyce.
The next day, the Bears were unable to attack their opponents with such confident gameplay, leading to several longer matches that could have gone in favor of the blue and gold but were unfinished as USD was first to go past the 4-point mark.
Cal won its first match with No. 16 Jessica Alsola’s smooth cruise past her opponent with a 6-3, 6-1 scoreline. Hannah Viller Moeller, however, lost out 6-1, 6-1 shortly after, winning only two games across two sets. With Richardson’s 6-3, 6-2 loss that followed, and Haley Giavara losing a tiebreak on court 1 to finish 6-4, 7-6(5), the Bears lost out on the opportunity to advance to Indoor Nationals.
“We’ve got six players out there who are capable of beating anyone in the country, so … If you look at (Giavara’s) court, they were right about to be in the third … I think Berta (Passola Folch) was going to win her match on (court) three so I think it’s a lot closer than the score indicated,” said Augustus. “I’m not worried.”
Now, the Bears get to set their sights on their next dual matches, both of which are going to be at home. Although they don’t get to advance to nationals, Cal will be playing No. 18 UCLA and No. 9 Pepperdine.
Playing two top-20 teams will be solid practice for the Bears as they gear up to continue their dual matches and especially ahead of Pac-12 play starting in March.
“These are two top teams, we play them home and away every year,” said Augustus. “This is a typical college weekend for us, we want to play the good teams because we’re a good team.”