Capping off a tough season for Cal women’s tennis, the two Bears that made it into the NCAA singles and doubles tournaments ended their short-lived postseason run. Jessica Alsola fell in her first singles match Monday and lost in her doubles match alongside Katja Wiersholm on Tuesday as the two left Orlando without a win.
Not all losses were created equal, and Alsola’s match was extremely close. In fact, she only lost by two points, 84 to 86 of the total 170 points played, to Georgia’s No. 3 Lea Ma with a final score of 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
“I definitely thought I was playing (the) tennis I wanted to play, and I think I really showed that,” Alsola said. “It really just came down to a few points and I felt like I was making her earn the points.”
After five games, the match was forced to move inside due to lighting and rain. Even with the complications, Alsola’s game looked very complete, with the sophomore staying in control and playing excellent offense.
Alsola held to love five times over the course of three sets. Her serve was certainly in her favor, with six aces and one double fault to Ma’s four aces and three doubles. After a three-point difference in points won in the first set, Alsola went on to take the second 6-4.
While the two were fairly on par in terms of first serve percentage, with Alsola at 64% and Ma at 65%, Ma’s returns were a weak point in the second set, allowing Alsola to capitalize and take control of the rallies; the Georgia senior won just 31% and 22% of her first and second serve return points, respectively.
The third set finally saw Alsola fall behind, as she came out lacking on offense with a lower first serve percentage and an even lower first serve points won marker, at 54%, compared to Ma’s 73%. After fighting off a match point with an excellent inside-out forehand, Alsola eventually fell with an excellent unreturned serve from Ma. The third-ranked Ma went on to beat North Carolina’s Anika Yarlagadda in the second round.
“(Alsola) had a fantastic season, and I don’t think she gets the attention she deserves for how good of a season she’s had,” said head coach Amanda Augustus. “(Alsola and Wiersholm) are only sophomores — I think the future of our team is really bright.”
Unlike Alsola’s singles loss, the duo of Alsola and Wiersholm were certainly the weaker team going up against UNC’s Reese Brantmeier and Elizabeth Scotty in doubles Tuesday.
Wiersholm and Alsola took a rather demoralizing 6-1, 6-2 loss to last week’s newly crowned team national champions. Even with the loss, this first national championship appearance provided insight for the young duo moving forward.
“I learned that it was really fun to be here and see the level (of competition), but you also have to see the level and take accountability of what you need to work on so that next year, you can be able to do some damage and go further,” Wiersholm said.
The two sets saw Wiersholm and Alsola cling to just three of their service games over the entire match and win no break points. The Bears also seemed to experience some communication issues, with some lackluster points combined with service issues. The Cal sophomores totaled six double faults — while their North Carolina opponents finished with none of their own — and six unforced errors.
The straight-set loss officially ended the Bears’ season, and they will now have to wait until the fall to retake the courts. Despite the losses, Augustus emphasized that she was proud of her young Bears.
“This is why we put the work in … for tournaments like this, so I’m really proud of them,” Augustus said. “I’m excited to continue to work with both of them going forward, because they do such a good job and are what the core values of our team are about.”