After strong performances in both a victory over then-No. 46 Oregon and 4-3 defeat to then-No. 7 Pepperdine, the Cal women’s tennis team headed to Los Angeles this past weekend hoping to maintain its run of good form against No. 34 USC and No. 9 UCLA. The duo of matches served as the Bears’ last opportunity to scope out the two conference rivals before the Pac-12 championships begin April 23.
Cal, which is currently ranked 27th in the ITA rankings, opened the set of conference matches against USC on Friday. Little separated the two teams in the early stages of the match, as doubles matches on the first and third courts were split between the two sides. The Bears got out in front after Hannah Viller Moeller and Anna Bright edged the Trojan’s Salma Ewing and Clare McKee in a tiebreak on the second court to give Cal the doubles point.
Despite USC’s Ewing stringing together a dominant performance over Cal’s No. 41 Haley Giavara to even the match at 1-1, wins from Valentina Ivanov, Bright and finally Viller Moeller pushed the Bears to a 4-1 lead and clinched the team win. The Trojans would go on to notch victories on the second and fourth courts, narrowing the final scoreline to 4-3.
Friday’s result marked Cal’s fifth straight match that was decided by a single point in the overall score. The fact that the Bears won four of those matches is a testament to their ability to execute in critical moments this season. Their poise was apparent once more when they won the decisive doubles point against USC.
The following day, Cal faced the ninth-ranked Bruins in what was the third meeting between the two squads this season. Even in the match’s early stages, it seemed sure to go down to the wire.
After doubles matches on the second and third courts were split between the two sides, the Bruins’ No. 79 Abbey Forbes and Jada Hart bested Cal’s Giavara and Ivanov to give UCLA the doubles point. The loss was a missed opportunity for the Bears, as Giavara and Ivanov failed to convert three break points at 3-all, two game points at 3-4, and another break point at 3-5 en route to their doubles-point defeat.
The match quickly became one-sided from then on. With UCLA’s No. 113 Elysia Bolton — who did not play singles in the teams’ last meeting — back in the lineup, the Bruins swept the Bears on all six courts, giving them a 7-0 win.
“I have a feeling we’ll see them again at the Pac-12 or NCAA tournament,” Cal’s head coach Amanda Augustus said. “We’ll evaluate each individual singles match and see where we can do better next time.”
Cal (14-5) moves into a second-place tie with Stanford in the Pac-12 standings. The Bears will head across the Bay to face the No. 38 Cardinal on Friday for their last regular season match. The match will decide who earns the second seed for the Pac-12 tournament.
Stanford (11-3) is coming off a weekend that was nearly identical to Cal’s as the Cardinal were swept 7-0 by UCLA but defeated USC 6-1. The matchup will be the Bears’ first encounter with their Bay Area rivals this season.
Milad Shafaie covers women’s tennis. Contact him at email@example.com.